By Jeff Pack
Staff Writer 

Postponement of Tokyo Games means Canett will have to wait for Olympic debut


Last updated 4/3/2020 at 4:30am

Village News/Jeff Pack photo

Kayla Canett, left, who was fighting for a spot on the U.S. Women's Rugby 7s Olympic Team was disappointed to find out that Tokyo Games would be postponed until 2021. She's pictured with Lily Durbin, another Fallbrook Girls Rugby Club alumnus, who has appeared for the U.S. National Team, at a recent match in Fallbrook.

Only World War I and World War II have forced the cancellation of the Olympic Games. This year a microscopic virus is forcing the Tokyo Games, which was slated to open July 24, to be postponed until 2021.

If all had gone to plan, 2016 Fallbrook High School graduate Kayla Canett would be continuing to earn her way onto the USA Women's Rugby 7s Olympic Team that was slated to compete in Tokyo.

Canett has spent the past year in the residency program for the team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and had a great shot at earning a spot, considering she was participating in the majority of the tournaments for the U.S. team in the 2020 World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series

She appeared for the team in tournaments in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Hamilton, Canada, and Sydney, Australia and was likely to play in Hong Kong and Singapore in April before the series was halted Feb. 13.

Both events have been rescheduled to conclude the 2020 series with the HSBC Singapore Sevens scheduled to take place Oct. 10-11 and the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens completing the series Oct. 16-18.

The Tokyo Games, slated for 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries and at a reported cost of $28 billion, was officially called off for 2020 last week.

It was tough news for Canett, who had her year planned out so she could be available to train with the U.S. team, make her first appearance in the Olympics and head back to return to studies at Penn State.

"On a personal level I was quite disappointed because I was planning on going back to Penn State in the fall to finish my last year of university," Canett said. "Now, I have a lot of unknowns and have to figure out how I want to proceed. I'm still trying to figure out what will make me happy and be the best for me in the long run."

She said the news hit the team hard.

"As a team we are all pretty disappointed, but also optimistic because another year of training means that we get to gain another year of experience and get to kind of redo this year," Canett said. "If there were things that we weren't personally proud of we know how to change it to hopefully be more satisfied with ourselves and our performances as a team."

She said while the players on the team have returned to their respective homes, they still stay in touch.

"It's definitely been tough being away from the girls and staff," Canett said. "They're such a big source of motivation and happiness for me daily. We still have meetings together that keep us connected, and we've been having a lot of Zoom calls to stay in touch."

If Canett is named to the team at the Olympics in 2021, she will become the second player from Fallbrook to participate as a U.S. Olympian in Rugby. Richelle Stevens played for the Americans in the inaugural year for Rugby 7s in the Olympics in Brazil.

"Obviously having Richelle go to the last Olympics was so inspiring and couldn't have happened to a better person," Canett said. "She's so dedicated and loves the game. It's been great to have learned from her and be able to talk to her about my experiences training and touring.

"I think our successes along with Lilly Durbin's with the 7s National Team is a testament to the kind of environment that Fallbrook Girls Rugby Club has developed over the many years. It's such a special club to learn the game and grow as a young woman."

Before heading to Penn State, Canett was a star in high school rugby, playing for Fallbrook Girls Rugby Club since she was 14 years old. Her experience as a basketball player with three years at Fallbrook High School and soccer in her senior year translated into a dynamic skill set on the rugby pitch.

Her use of space, great ball handling and game recognition set her apart from many in the sport. She was a part of High School National Championship teams from 2013 to 2015 and in her senior season, the 2016 Fallbrook Girls Rugby team finished second in the nation.

Outside of the club, in 2015 she competed with USA Rugby's High School All-American Sevens and 15s teams, earning an MVP honor during the Vancouver Rugby Festival. She also competed for the USA Under-20 team.

In 2017, she earned a selection with the Women's Eagles 15s for Rugby World Cup 2017 Ireland where the USA finished fourth.

She made her senior international debut with the Eagles Sevens at the Dubai Sevens 2016; she was a consistent member of the team during the second half of the World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments in 2019.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]

Village News/Mike Lee of KLC Fotos photo

Kayla Canett runs at a defender from France during a World Rugby Sevens Series match in 2019.


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