Cherry confirms bid to go out on top at 2021 Tokyo Olympics
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Cherry confirms bid to go out on top at 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Australian women's sevens star Emilee Cherry has decided to extend her career until the Tokyo Olympics next year in pursuit of a second gold medal she admits might not have been attainable in 2020 given the way the team was playing.

Last month, veteran sevens representatives Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry announced they were committed to defending the gold medal Australia won in Rio four years ago.

Emilee Cherry has her sights on next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Emilee Cherry has her sights on next year's Tokyo Olympics. Credit:Louise Kennerley

For Cherry, 28, her situation is a little different. After the birth of daughter Alice in June 2019, Cherry returned to the international circuit and represented her country once again at the Sydney Sevens earlier this year.

She had mentally and physically planned for the Tokyo Olympics to be her final stint in an Australian jersey but the COVID-19 pandemic meant the Games had to be pushed back a year to 2021.

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Rather than call it a day, Cherry is strapping in once again for a shot at more Olympic glory.

"I had to reassess and that took a fair while," Cherry said. "I didn't just brush it off the shoulder and say, 'yeah I'll go another year'. I went to [coach] John [Manenti] and said I needed time to go home and see my family. I went home for two months and rejuvenated. When you miss things and when you're away from things it gives a better perspective. I definitely came back hungrier.

"A four-year preparation towards an Olympics is exhausting. You chuck a baby in that and it's very taxing. Since we won the last gold, I want to win another one and that never changed."

Cherry says COVID-19 has been a "blessing in disguise" for the squad, whose favouritism has been challenged in recent years.

After the highs of Rio, Australia finished fourth in the 2018-19 World Sevens Series behind New Zealand, USA and Canada.

In the 2019-20 tournament, Australia finished second but were thumped 34-0 in the semi-final of the Sydney Sevens against Canada. Two years earlier in Sydney, they went through the entire weekend without conceding a point.

Cherry with partner Daniel and daughter Alice.

Cherry with partner Daniel and daughter Alice.

"It's given us another year and I don't think we were in the place we needed to be this year," Cherry said. "We're taking it as a blessing in disguise for our team to get better and stronger. These last six months, just realising probably we weren't going to be good enough going to Tokyo this year. We've got another chance to work really hard and realise we weren't there and if we need to be the best in the world we need to step up in these next eight months or so.

"There wasn't that continuity between players. We've had some young players come in. We've had players like myself and Chloe Dalton go away and come back. That extra year is going to be great for us to get another year under our belt.

"Going into Rio we were confident we were one of the fittest and fastest teams in the world and we probably weren't there this year but I think everyone has reassessed. In the past we probably could have been relying on what we did in Rio and we did well, so that was OK. We've had to improve standards. We've had to increase our expectations by a lot."

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With no sevens tournaments locked in around the world just yet, Cherry said being able to spend more time at home rather than on the international circuit had been good for the soul.

"It's been awesome and Rugby Australia has been very supportive with everything I have done and needed," Cherry said. "[Alice] comes to training some days when we can't find another babysitter. I think it's pretty awesome she gets to come into this environment and as she gets older being around girls that are so talented and motivated and inspirational."

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