Alicia Quirk

The Whirlwind of Olympic Success

Alicia Quirk
The Whirlwind of Olympic Success

As my surname may suggest, I am a little bit quirky. But above all, I’m a highly competitive, strongly opinionated and determined young woman with a passion for what I do.

If it weren’t for my personal traits, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Growing up in a small country town with limited opportunities taught me to fight for every opportunity I was granted, and to never give up on my ambitions. Once I set my sights on something, I am determined to do anything to achieve that goal. My determination to succeed has not only helped me transition between different sports, but more importantly pushed me to become good at a sport that I initially wasn’t very good at. To be selected for the Rio Olympics within three to four short years of playing Rugby Sevens was a testament to my work ethic, competitiveness and drive to succeed. 

Claiming the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 was extraordinary; there are no words to describe the privilege or to do the moment justice. Initially I felt relieved that we had won, but that relief quickly turned into pure jubilation. Throughout my childhood my ultimate goal was to become an Olympian, once I was selected for the Australian Rugby Sevens squad I was extremely proud of my achievement. But once I became apart of that team, becoming an Olympian played second fiddle to becoming a gold medallist. We were an extremely tight-knit group that was full of talent; with each training session our belief to succeed grew, and by the time Rio came around we knew that we could win gold.

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We went into the Rio Olympics as the number one ranked nation, so there was quite a bit of pressure on us to perform. As a team, we did well to shut out the external factors and external noise. We were almost cocooned in our own little bubble. For the four years leading into the Olympics our only focus was on winning gold. It didn’t feel like we were putting pressure on ourselves, but instead the goal of claiming gold became second nature to us, as did winning. We had focused on it, talked about it and trained for it for so long that we didn’t feel the pressure; it almost came natural to us that we would win.

I was extremely proud, humbled and emotional that I could achieve what I did in such a short space of time. It was really special to have my family, my partner and my best friends from Wagga all there to share the special moment. It was very overwhelming, an indescribable and surreal feeling.

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The people who support me everyday are the most important to me, my partner, Matt Lucas, has been extremely helpful. His rugby knowledge and insight, alongside his ability to give me feedback has been instrumental for my personal development as a sevens player. Matt has been a constant support, and has kept me grounded throughout my career.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my parents, they have always stuck by me and granted me several opportunities, I am eternally grateful for their constant support.

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I am also very fortunate to represent Australia alongside two of my closest friends, Charlotte Caslick and Emilee Cherry. They are not only great rugby players but they’re both great people, so the fact that I get to share special moments with them is awesome. There is no greater feeling than standing next to two of your closest friends during the national anthem or when you’re celebrating a gold medal. Although these two, alongside Emma Tonegato, stand out as my main influences throughout my sevens career, my whole team and especially the girls that went to Rio are why I have a smile on my face every day I go to training.

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I owe a lot of my rugby career to Anthony Eddy; he was the first individual to identify me from touch football as someone who had the potential to play rugby. He would scream and yell at me, even call me soft, but if it weren’t for his decision to pick me I wouldn’t be where I am today. My current coach, Tim Walsh, has been instrumental in shaping my rugby career. Tim granted me my first real team selection for Australia, he has always believed in my determination, attitude and drive to succeed.

Following our Olympic success, the support we received from back home was overwhelming. We were receiving emails, Instagram messages and text messages from people we knew, people we didn’t know and people we hadn’t spoken to in 10 years. The support we received from Australia made me feel both happy and proud. As a team we tried to isolate ourselves and close off from the world during our time in Rio. We had absolutely no idea about the magnitude of the coverage we were receiving back home, and the impact we had on the sport of rugby.

As a team we set out to rebrand and change the face of women’s rugby in Australia, leading into the Olympic games that was our big off-field goal. We wanted to inspire young girls to pick up a footy and play rugby. We wanted them to choose rugby over other sports, and change the way people viewed women’s rugby. Although we set out to have the impact that we did, we were still surprised with the outcome. Originally it was a selfish goal for us as a team, but we gave more pride and joy to people than we realised we could. We were really proud to be the catalyst of that.

The year following our gold medal success at the Rio Olympics was extremely difficult, we were coming off the ultimate high of representing our country and winning gold, to then having to mentally refocus, recharge our batteries and go again. It was difficult because we had spent years working extremely hard, to then be then given a short break and straight back into training. Mentally, it was extremely tough to get yourself back up for that.

The reason I found it so difficult following our gold medal success, was because it was such a big goal of mine and I had finally ticked that box. From a young age I strived towards representing my country at the Olympic games, so once we won gold there was a feeling of ‘what next?’.

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As a team, and personally, not reaching the goals and expectations that we set ourselves in the season following the Olympics was probably the most challenging part. Our results were poor, we failed to retain the number one status and we didn’t win a single world series tournament. It proved to be a challenging period that we had to overcome with a new dynamic and a different playing group. It was obviously a very disappointing season, but at the same time a period that was very grounding. It allowed us to recognise the fact that all the work we had done previously wasn’t going to cut it anymore, we were no longer hunting other teams but we were the hunted. Many valuable lessons were learned, and none more so than the importance of pure work ethic and putting in the hard yards.

I’m someone that loves training, I’ll do extra sessions and go above and beyond, but even for me it was mentally challenging to regather and go again. Now that I reflect, it was a time for character building and just another challenge that you need to overcome as a professional athlete. It was a time to freshen up the body and mind, and get yourself back up for the fight.

As a group, we learned a lot about ourselves in terms of leadership and communication styles, but for me it was a very mentally challenging year. We were forced to learn how to shift the mindset, to set new goals and new ambitions to work towards and drive us as a team forwards. Despite the poor results, the season following our Olympic success may prove to be the catalyst for our success moving forwards, the lessons we learned bonded us as a team together and will hold us in good stead when we are faced with future challenges.

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Last year highlighted more than ever that this our full-time job, we have to perform at each tournament and there is a lot of pressure on us from a financial point of view. As a team we felt as though we let a lot of people down by not winning a tournament, which has given us the drive to succeed in our future endeavours.

The Commonwealth Games are on home soil next year, as many of the girls are from Queensland I think it will be a very special moment to play on the Gold Coast and play in Australia, which is something that we don’t get to do too often. It will also be another history making moment as it is the first time rugby sevens will be included in the Commonwealth Games, so we are striving towards success on home soil. I didn’t get selected for the 2013 World Cup, which has given me added incentive to work towards being named in the squad for the 2018 World Cup in San Francisco. Depending on how the next couple of years go, I would love to head to Tokyo for the Olympics with the girls in 2020.

🌸 Aussie 7s 🏈 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist 🏅 Asics 👟 & People and Culture Strategies 📚 Ambassadors

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