WHITEFISH — Whitefish native Nicole Heavirland has been playing rugby since high school. But this year won’t be like any other year of her rugby career, after reading her name on the 2021 Olympic roster with Team USA where she'll compete with the women's sevens rugby team.
Heavirland said what she is most proud of is to represent her hometown.
"It's a good feeling," Heavirland told MTN Sports. "There is not a lot of people in Whitefish, Montana, so to represent the United States is just like a huge achievement and I'm just like super stoked to represent Whitefish."
Heavirland did make the Olympic reserve team for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil but there’s a different amount of pressure this year. Luckily, pressure is what this Olympian lives for.
"When you're on the team, you're trying to play as USA and perform the best you can for yourself and your teammates so I think there's way more pressure but honestly I love the pressure," Heavirland said.
In 2020, Heavirland also made the Olympic roster for the sevens team which was ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Where did she learn to perform under pressure? Right in Whitefish where no matter what the sport was, female athlete just simply meant athlete.
"Thankfully, like my dad knew the wrestling coach, my dad knew the football coach, so I was able to join as a girl and I don't think that's as relevant in other places and I think that has really helped my rugby career," Heavirland said.
Unlike any other year, family members are not allowed to come to this year's Olympics in Tokyo in order to protect the health of the athletes. Besides her family, Nicole says what she will miss the most is the noise of the crowd and the cowbell.
"It is so helpful to have them in the stands, because they're really loud," Heavirland said. "My mom brings cowbells, and she'll bring the Montana flag and I can always hear her, I can always hear my dad and I'll just have to be in contact with them, via phone or FaceTime."
For Heavirland, this is just the beginning of her career, but she has even bigger dreams for the future of the game.
"I hope that they'll be more programs there for young women and men to start playing at a young age, and hope that, when they grow up they want to become rugby players," Heavirland said. "It's not like basketball or soccer or baseball. it's I want to become a rugby player."
You can cheer on Heavirland and the entire women’s sevens rugby team in the 2021 Olympics starting July 23.