Aussie rugby sevens hero Emilee Cherry has been forced into retirement by injury less than two months out from the Tokyo Olympics.
One of the stars of Australia's gold medal-winning team at the Rio Games in 2016, the mother of one announced her decision to step away from international rugby on Friday.
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The 28-year-old told rugby.com.au that she made the decision in February.
“I cried lots and, at the time, it was heartbreaking but I’m content now. I have a smile. My body had definitely given up,” she said.
“International sevens can be brutal on the body. My hips, lower body niggles, little things...they’d built up.
“Schedules changing every week, quarantine changes...there was the start of a mental toll too when, obviously, caring for (daughter) Alice is the biggest part of my life."
Cherry was a founding member of the full-time program in 2012, making her international debut in the World Series in Dubai before collecting 31 caps for Australia.
She was voted women's sevens world player of the year in the 2013-14 season.
The Queenslander welcomed her first child, Alice, in 2019 before making a successful return to the international arena.
“It gives me more time to hang out with Alice and my family and we’ll see what’s next,” she told Sunrise on Friday morning.
Aussie coach pays tribute to Emilee Cherry
Australian women's coach John Manenti said the team would miss Cherry's leadership.
"Emilee has given so much to the team, program and jersey, and it's sad to see her go," Manenti said.
"A founding member of the program back in 2012, Em has been an integral part of the successful growth of women's rugby within Australia.
"The timing of her departure is unfortunate as I know the whole team was excited to give her the send-off which she deserves, however, I know this won't affect the squad heading to the Games."
Cherry scored 131 tries at World Series level and played in eight tournament wins.
“It’s been an amazing 10 years. I’ve made some amazing friends, experienced some amazing things,” she said.
“Whether I’m 28 or 68, I’m always going to miss the feeling of those big events or the current girls kicking things up a notch playing in New Zealand.”
She said she would now become the team’s “No.1 supporter” in Tokyo.
“I’ll be on the sidelines cheering them on and at every training session trying to make them better,” she said.
“The last 12 months they’ve gotten physically better, mentally stronger and I think they’re in a really good place.”
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