‘I want to inspire in every room that I walk into’

There was a wave of excitement in women's football when it was announced that Ellie Kildon, the heel-back who was named Player of the Tournament at the recent Six Nations, would strut her stuff on the Olympics stage, adding her own special abilities. The joy of life For events in Paris.

Keldon was part of the team that secured qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but fate took a turn that led her to where she is today – viewed as one of the best, if not the best, female athletes on the planet.

When the entire sevens squad was made redundant, Kildon was bereft, but tears of sadness were soon replaced by joy when the RFU offered her one of the historic first contracts for women in the 15-a-side match.

While these deals helped propel England to the top of women's football globally, the decision to accept one was a double-edged sword for Kildon in the circumstances.

Keldon (second left) starred for England in the Six Nations but is now returning to the Seven Nations (Photo by Bob Bradford – Camera Sport via Getty Images)

“That was probably one of the biggest setbacks she's ever had. It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make,” she said. Rugby Pass.

“It was around the time we were made redundant with the G7 and Covid had just hit. I've always said I wanted to be the best player in the world, but at the time I was looking at pub jobs and nanny jobs and considering whether I needed to return to university halls. Then I had the opportunity to get a full-time 15s contract, with the only condition being that I couldn't go to the Olympics.

“I had just spent the last two years in the Group of Sevens and was injured almost the whole time I was there, so it was a really tough journey but the connections I made meant they weren't just my team – my teammates, they were my best friends.

“I felt like I let everyone down, but I also let myself down because it's something [going to an Olympic Games] Which I always wanted to do.

I'm really grateful for the Group of Sevens that let me in, but also the Group of Fifteens that allowed me to step away and do something that I really believe in.

The opportunity to rejoin the sevens program ahead of the HSBC SVNS Grand Final in Madrid and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games this summer has given Kildunne another roll of the dice in chasing her Olympic dream.

“I never wanted to get to the end of my career and say, 'This is it now, I'll never try it again'.” [Olympics] once again'. What's to come and the chance to get back into the sevens gives me that opportunity to achieve my dreams, but at least I tried.

“I'm really grateful to the Group of Sevens for letting me in, but also the Group of Fifteens for allowing me to step away and do something I really believe in.”

Kildon's numbers from the last Six Nations alone speak to her talent. She was the leading scorer with nine points, the leading scorer (45), and topped the most yards gained (676.1), most meters carried (869.3), and most line breaks (13), as well as having three picks in the game. Awards. This was completed by her receiving the tournament's best player award, but even this award does not paint the full picture of her campaign.

Eli Keldon
Full-back Keldon scored a hat-trick against Ireland and tries against Italy, Wales and Scotland (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

The smile on her face speaks volumes. Keldon credits this with not only contributing to her growing love of rugby, but perhaps more importantly, allowing her to find her feet as a person, not just as a player.

The 24-year-old avid photographer is often seen with a camera in her hand when she's not playing, and also loves to express herself through fashion.

“I've been on a journey where I've accepted the way I express myself, whether it's through fashion, photography or finding my smile on the field,” she says, wearing a red and white plaid shirt.

“I'm the happiest I've ever been. The season we've just had in the Six Nations has been the most enjoyable season I've ever had in an England shirt.

It's really important to find what you have something It's… Whatever it is, I think if you're going to do something, just do it, do it with a smile on your face and find new ways to love it more.

“It's so contagious, that energy you feel when you're playing and training. You look forward to being around the girls. When the tournament ended, I didn't want it to end. I wanted to play another game because I was enjoying it so much.”

“When people ask me: 'What do you do when you lose your love for the sport?', I don't really know the answer because I never lost the love of rugby. If anything, I've fallen in love with it even more.”

Keldon's enthusiasm for life, on and off the rugby field, is contagious and she believes everyone should try to find it.

“It's really important to find what works for you something He is. It may not be photography. It might not be about the smile on the field, or the way you dress, but it might be the singing or podcasting. Whatever it is, I believe that if you're going to do something, just do it, do it with a smile on your face and find new ways to love it more.

Allowing players to embrace their true selves outside of the game and show their true personalities is something Kildon advocates.

Eli Keldon
Keldon and Jess Breech showed off some dance moves after England's Grand Slam win over France in Bordeaux (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“I talk about storytelling and the emotional side of rugby all the time – as people, not just as players. We are more than that,” she enthuses.

“I want to inspire every room I walk into, whether you like rugby or not. I never want to be the Ellie Kildon of rugby, because rugby won't last forever.

“It's important that I consider myself, not just a rugby player, because you'll notice that when you watch rugby, but you're not going to have a conversation with Eli the rugby player in the street or if we go over there. For coffee, she'll talk to me. It's my personality. It keeps people engaged.” Earth too.

Keldon has unashamedly expressed his desire to be the best player in the world, male or female. Even at the relatively nascent stage of her blossoming career, many rugby pundits would already argue she's on track to bag that award.

If you look at the girls in the GB group you will find that they are very talented. Super fast, all of them. I'm excited about the challenges and trying to make this team won't be easy.

Going back from 15 to sevens is a challenge that may contribute to her reaching those rare heights, and she's looking forward to sharing the knowledge she's gained from being part of the Red Roses.

“I haven't played sevens for a long time, so there are bags of knowledge that I will learn from.

“Everyone has a different strength and I'm really looking forward to taking things from these guys. Playing against them, training against them will continue to add strings to my bow. For myself and Meg [Jones] Going into the G7, we don't have much time before Madrid.

“I'm sure we will learn from them as much as they will learn from us and our individual skills, but also from the 15 to 7 game. If you look at the girls in the GB group they are very talented. Super fast, all of them. I'm excited about the challenges and trying to make this a team that won't be I'm also looking forward to being part of a new group, pushing others and making new friends.

Rhona Lloyd
Kildon will soon join the likes of Scottish winger Rona Lloyd with the Great Britain Sevens squad in the HSBC SVNS Grand Final in Madrid (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

In women's football, there are players in many countries heading into the sevens and 15s competitions.

The recent Six Nations saw several of Kildon's Great Britain teammates represent their countries at the age of 15, with the likes of Scottish duo Rhona Lloyd and Lisa Thompson and Wales' Jasmine Joyce also making spots in the competition.

Since the introduction of professional contracts 15 years ago, this crossover has become much less common for English athletes, but Kildon strongly believes that players should be able to showcase their talents in both formats.

“I've always been a big supporter of the idea that we should be able to play both sevens and 15s,” she insisted.

“For some positions, it definitely benefits. For example, I'm a full-back, I run a lot, the physique might be a little different but I have to keep my composure in both scenarios. I wouldn't do anything less as a 15-year-old player.” Because I do a lot of exercise anyway.

“In countries that have done it before, England and Britain for example, it shows the depth of women's rugby. If you can pull people out and bring them into different teams, it's a one-team mentality and they can each benefit from having different eyes on the game, different players in They see the game a little differently.

I honestly scream to people that you should go to the Sevens Championship. If you're not a rugby fan, go for some sevens. It could be social, it could be a chance to dance with your friends, or it could be a chance to watch a rugby match.

“You look at the likes of France and New Zealand who have done it more, and have had real success with it. I'm grateful that we'll have the opportunity to show England and Britain that we can do the same thing too. Hopefully that will become the story for more people from now on. Then You can play sevens and 15s, enjoy rugby as much as you can and learn from different experiences as they arise.

The Olympics schedule means Sevens has a golden opportunity to grow the sport. It is one of the few sports to get underway before the opening ceremony on 26 July – the first two days of the men's event will take place on 24 and 25 July, with the women taking center stage from Sunday 28 July.

The 'coming of age' Olympics and the SVNS series are stepping stones from which Kildon hopes rugby will continue to grow.

“I honestly shout to people that you should go to the sevens. If you don't like rugby, go to some sevens.”

“It could be social, it could be a chance to dance with your friends, it could be a chance to watch a rugby match.

“Being involved in the sevens series when I was younger gave me an idea of ​​that. You only have to watch the match for 14 minutes. It's not that long! That's like four songs, and then it's over, it's very fast,” she adds, laughing.

Eli Keldon
Kildon will miss the end of the domestic season with Harlequins but is confident she will 'grow' in her absence (Photo by Bob Bradford – Camera Sport via Getty Images)

“I have a lot of friends in the creative world and one of them actually attended the England v Ireland game and took some pictures. It was my first women's rugby match and I absolutely loved it.

Since the end of the Six Nations, Kildon has trained independently before joining the Great Britain squad.

“The last couple of weeks I've been doing sevens training. The vast majority of the training you do is at home, and then you go to camp.

“I'm really excited about the opportunity to play in Madrid. It's going to be amazing. It's not an easy group but I'm looking forward to the challenges we'll face, but also to quickly find solutions and get back on the sevens court with the girls.”

As Keldon embarks on a summer of chasing her dream of a Sevens Olympic Games, she will put 15 seconds aside temporarily.

Her stunning success with England contrasts with a difficult season on the domestic front. Harlequins have just four wins from 14 matches in the Women's Rugby Super League, sitting sixth out of nine heading into the final few weeks before the qualifiers.

She added: “It hasn't been the smoothest season with Queens, but I'm not going to leave them in a place where I don't think they'll improve.” “I don't think the team depends on me at all.

“I'm really proud of the girls and the journey they're on. We're learning a lot from each other. Losing isn't easy, losing week after week isn't any easier. You don't get used to it.”

“In my absence, they will improve, so I'm looking forward to how much they can raise the level, so when I come back I can fight to get my shirt back.”


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