Rugby Sevens star Huriana Manuel, has taken the opportunity to play for her country on the Olympic stage with two hands. A natural leader within the team Huriana is a humble hard worker who certainly does not shy away from a challenge. With two World Championship titles with the New Zealand Black Ferns Huriana’s cool head under pressure will be an asset to the side on the sevens field in Rio. Along with her sevens sisters she is set to triumph on the world’s greatest sporting stage….
When did you first want to go to the Olympics?
It all started for us about five years ago when we first found out that rugby sevens was going to be included in Rio. At the time I was working full time at a Refugee Camp and I had actually given rugby a break for a year. I got a call from the coach and the NZRU saying ‘hey look we want you to come back and play rugby because 7s in the Olympics’. I just said ‘yes why not?!’ It’s the pinnacle of sport and to represent your country on this stage is definitely something I didn’t want to miss out on.
What does it mean to you to be an Olympian?
How do you feel as a female athlete representing NZ as a role model to young kiwi girls?
I just try and do my best in whatever I do and I tell my nieces (and nephews) to do the same. I make sure I encourage them to just give your best because that’s what I’m trying to do in rugby. When I play rugby I enjoy myself. Whatever my 100% is I give that day in and day out.
Describe one of your hardest training sessions in the last 6 months
Every day is pretty hard for us! Usually it consists of a lot of running. Our sport is only 14minutes but it’s at a very high intensity start to finish. When the whistle blows we are going hard so we try and train like that every day. So we do a lot of running and we do a lot of strength work in the gym. Recovery as well is really important for us to train at this level.
When you walk out to compete in Rio what will be the last thing you tell yourself?
Something that I will think about will be my family and just how much they sacrificed for me. Especially when I was young I remember my Mum taking me to training and just being there for me. So I’ll think about my family and the people that are important for me. I’m doing it not just for me but them and the rest of the country.
What will you have for breakfast before you compete in Rio?
I’ll probably just have my usual which is baked beans on toast with either scrambled eggs or poached eggs. Then I may have a smoothie as well. It’s what I normally have and I won’t change it
Aside from life as an elite athlete what else makes you get out of bed in the morning?
For me I always take it back to my family. Outside of rugby I love spending time with my family and my fiancé. He’s in Japan playing super rugby at the moment and we speak all the time when we can with the time zones. He’s my biggest fan and I’m his.
What’s your ideal rest day?
At home with my hoody and track pants on watching a movie of some sought surrounded by my family.
If you weren’t dominating the sporting world what would you be doing?
I have studied Maori Media so probably doing something in TV but I also want to give back to my sport in some way, so maybe coaching.
Finally, if you had the chance to acknowledge someone who has helped you get to this point in your sporting career who would it be and why?
My family first always and in particular my Mum and my Fiancé. But I also think our trainers at MISH (AUT Millennium National Training Center) the likes of Albert and Angus. There’s lots of people in the background who are never seen our like those guys and our nutritionists, doctors and physios. Our support staff have been amazing.
Photo credit: Huriana Manuel