Rugby veteran Ashley Steacy hopes to make 2016 Olympics a family affair

VICTORIA — Canadian rugby sevens veteran Ashley Steacy hopes to make the 2016 Olympics a family affair, joining her hammer-throwing brother-in-law and sister-in-law at the Rio Games.

Jim Steacy competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, making the final and placing 12th in Beijing. Younger sister Heather joined him at the London Games.

Steacy’s husband Sean was a CIS champion hammer-thrower in their native Lethbridge, Alta., but no longer competes.

“We talked about it a little bit but it’s not for sure yet for any on us,” Steacy said of a possible family reunion at the Olympics. “Once we synch that, then I guess we can celebrate it.”

At five foot two and 145 pounds, Steacy is a solid pocket dynamo rather than a giant slab of throwing muscle.

The 27-year-old, who earned her first caps for Canada with both the sevens and 15-woman team in 2007, hopes to take another step towards Rio de Janeiro this weekend when Canada hosts the fourth of six stops on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.

The top four teams will qualify automatically for Rio. Canada is currently tied for second in the standings with Australia behind New Zealand, which comes into the weekend riding a 30-match winning streak. France is fourth.

Brazil gets a bye as Olympic host. The remaining seven teams will be decided via regional tournaments.

Steacy and the other 11 captains posed for photos Friday against the picturesque, sunny backdrop of Victoria Harbour.

This weekend’s event is a first for Canada. Vancouver will be the site of a men’s event on the 2015-16 HSBC Sevens World Series.

The women’s event is at suburban Langford, which also hosts the annual Americas Rugby Championship.

“World Rugby (the sport’s governing body) had faith in us, that we could turn over an event properly,” said former Canadian captain Gareth Rees, now manager of the national men’s program.

“We’re backing our women’s team, OTP (Own The Podium) is backing our women’s team big-time to have success in Rio. So the last piece was for us to host an event to raise the profile locally. But probably most importantly for me as a rugby guy, we know that it gives our women the best chance to win the tournament.”

New Zealand, Australia and England are the only countries to win a women’s sevens event. Canada is looking to improve on a string of third-place finishes this season.

Steacy is serving as skipper in place of Jen Kish, the inspirational Canadian captain who was injured on the last stop in Atlanta.

The Canadian women are sticking to the same routine as on the road. Coach John Tait had the team check into a hotel Wednesday night to avoid distractions.

Organizers say a total of 4,000 seats have been sold so far for the two-day event at Westhills Stadium.

Canada has been drawn in a pool with No. 5 U.S., No. 7 Russia and No. 11 South Africa.

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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