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Napanee’s Britt Benn goes for gold in Tokyo

Britt Benn sent this photo home with the caption “One Last Time!” Submitted photo.

Britt Benn is a force to be reckoned with both on and off the field, says her aunt and supporter, Ange Benn.

“She’s just been a very determined girl her whole life. And she’s always strived for big things and she made them come true when she made the last team in 2016.”

On Friday, Jun. 25, 2021, upon learning she had been officially named to Canada’s Olympic team for Tokyo 2021, Britt posted a social media message to her supporters, “This has been the hardest 16 months of my life. I am grateful for the people who’ve stood by my side through it all. Proud to be named to the Rugby 7’s Olympic Team. #TOKYO 2020.”

Benn, who grew up in Napanee, is a veteran Olympian, having competed in Rio 2016 and winning Bronze in the year rugby sevens made their debut at the games. Six of those bronze-winning women are on this year’s team with Gold in their sights.

Sign Gypsies Bay of Quinte send best wishes to Britt as she competes in the Tokyo Olympics for the Canadian Rugby Women’s Sevens, this appeared on her parents’ lawn. Photo submitted.

It has undoubtedly been a stressful time of ups and downs for Benn. Canada originally qualified for the games back in June of 2019 when they finished third in the HSBC women’s sevens standings. And Benn was named Canada’s Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2019. However, due to the pandemic, the Olympics were postponed for nearly a full year. According to her Aunt Ange, this left 32-year-old Benn with much to consider, having originally thought she’d enter retirement after the 2020 competition.

In a letter to the Napanee Beaver on Mar. 27, 2020, Britt addressed her community, writing, “As everyone knows the Olympics have been postponed another year; my heart is broken but I respect this decision. The world is collectively mourning and we all need to take the necessary time to process everything that is going on around us.”

Britt Benn shows her Japan Airlines boarding pass as she prepares for the flight to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. Photo submitted.

The season was cancelled as well, seeing the National Women’s Rugby Sevens Olympic Team decentralized.  Benn returned home to Napanee, to be close to her family, friends, and community. She could be seen nearly every day jogging in Napanee to keep fit, and joined the Stone Mills Fire Department as a volunteer.  

In another stressful blow, this past April, 37 past and present Women’s Sevens players, Benn among them, issued a statement saying they felt complaints made in January 2021 of psychological abuse, harassment and bullying were not acknowledged by Rugby Canada.

After an independent review of the complaint, on Apr. 26, 2021, Rugby Canada, which is based in Langford BC, issued the following statement:

“The investigator noted the conduct described in the complaint reflected the experiences of the 37 (national senior women’s sevens team) athletes. However, the investigator determined that the conduct referenced was not behaviour which fell within the policy’s definition of harassment or bullying.”

Although he was not named in the original statements, head coach John Tait resigned from his coaching duties the same day.

“Athletes should never have to experience heightened anxiety, depression, racism, eating disorders, low self-worth or mental illness as part of participating in sport at any level,” said the statement issued by the team.

Benn has been open in the past about suffering from anxiety and standing up for your mental health, telling Napanee Today, Jul 28, 2020, that it is “important for young athletes to know that it is okay to go through changes or experience some level of anxiety or depression. Young athletes and everyone for that matter need to realize it is okay, to not be okay.”  She encouraged anyone who is struggling to reach out “there are so many resources out there, don’t suffer in silence.”

According to her official Team Canada profile, Benn started playing rugby at age 15 at Napanee District Secondary School. “In her tryout for the soccer team, the coach told her that she was really physical and soccer wasn’t really a contact sport so to jog over to the rugby practice instead.” She found the sport she affectionately referred to as her “high school sweetheart.” 

She continued to play under the tutelage of Collette McAuley, as a University of Guelph Gryphon. “She taught me how to channel the fire inside my heart. She gave me the strength to fly away and pursue my dreams,” said Benn.

Britt (third from right standing) and her team are having fun in Tokyo before the start of the tournament. Jose Bautista even took time to wish them well.

Canada’s Women’s Rugby Sevens team begins its quest for Gold in Tokyo on Wednesday, Jul. 28 against Brazil. They enter the Tokyo Games ranked second and are grouped alongside Brazil, France, and Fiji.

You can support Britt and her Rugby Sevens teammate by joining the Facebook group Britt Benn Cdn Women’s Rugby 7’s – Road To The 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

See below for Canada’s Women’s Fixtures, Dates and Times (PT) or click here for CBC’s broadcast schedule.

Pool Matches

Canada vs. Brazil – Wednesday, July 28 at 5:30 p.m. (CBC) PT 

Canada vs. Fiji – Thursday, July 29 at 12:30 a.m. (CBC) PT 

Canada vs. France – Thursday, July 29 at 5:30 p.m. (CBC) PT 

Next Stages

Placing 9-12 – Friday, July 30 at 12:30 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. PT 

Placing 5-8 – Friday, July 30 at 6:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. PT 

Quarter-finals – Friday, July 30 at 1:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m. PT 

Semi-Finals – Friday, July 30 at 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. PT 

Finals

Place 11-12 – Friday, July 30 at 5:00 p.m. PT 

Place 9-10 – Friday, July 30 at 5:30 p.m. PT 

Place 7-8 – Saturday, July 31 at 12:30 a.m. PT 

Place 5-6 – Saturday, July 31 at 1:00 a.m. PT 

Bronze Medal Match – Saturday, July 31 at 1:30 a.m. PT 

Gold Medal Match – Saturday, July 31 at 2:00 a.m. PT 

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