Kristen Thomas on Overcoming Adversity

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After suffering a devastating injury in the final leg of the HSBC World Series in 2016 and missing out on the Olympics, Kristen Thomas has made her way back into the fold for not only the 7s team but also the 15s team that competed in the Women’s World Cup in August.

Since Thomas made her transition from sprinter to rugby player, her goal was always to play in the Rio Olympics. She was well on her way, having made a name for herself on the 7s circuit. Her blistering speed made her a human highlight reel, but in one small moment it all came crumbling down. After being brought down in a tackle, Thomas felt pain, but attempted to shrug it off and get back into the action.

“I tried not to panic when I first got injured. Your natural instinct in rugby is to get back up and get back into position,” Thomas recalled of her injury. “I tried to get up but I realized I could not put any weight on my leg. Initially, I was hopeful that I would recover in time for the Olympics.”

Unfortunately for the University of Central Florida standout, the injury proved to be a blow to her 2016 Olympic dreams.

“It was devastating and kind of hard to put into words. It was really difficult to train for something for all that time and not reach the end goal,” Thomas recounted.

The Olympics came and went with Thomas relegated to the sidelines. While she still had the experience of attending the games, it was a celebratory yet reflective time for her.

“Watching my teammates reach their Olympic goals was a constant battle between being happy for them and trying not to feel sorry for myself. Injuries happen. It’s rugby. But, I had to move on, keep training and hope for the best in the future.”

The road to recovery was a tough one for Thomas, but she kept her eye on a couple of prizes. Not only did she want to play in as many 2017 HSBC World Series stops as possible, she still maintained the goal of suiting up for the 15s team in the World Cup.

“I kept those as a driving force during my recovery. When I was first injured, I let my diet slip, eating things I had not eaten in a long time. I had to work extremely hard not only to heal myself physically, but I also had to regain my mental focus,” Thomas added.

Her perseverance paid off, as Thomas made the roster for the second leg of the 2017 World Series in Australia. Her mental toughness was put to the test once again, however, as she separated her shoulder in her first game back on the world stage.

“I was pretty frustrated because it just felt like one injury after another. That being said, I am not new to this game so I knew I had to get right back at it and start rehabbing immediately because I really wanted to be ready for Vegas,” said Thomas.

Thomas came back from her injury with a little less than a month of rehab and helped the United States finish fourth overall in Las Vegas.

While continuing to train and play on the 7s circuit, she received her first ever 15s international cap in a test match against Canada in March. Impressively, Thomas got herself back in shape and impressed the coaches during the limited number of 15s camps.

“You have to come into camp focused and ready to impress the coaching staff,” Thomas said of the work required to make the national team.

The hard work paid off as Thomas earned a starting spot on the national team that finished fourth in the World Cup, leading the team with four tries. For her efforts, Thomas was named to the All-Tournament team.

“Making the World Cup team was an incredible experience and a validation of all the hard work I put in on and off the field,” Thomas concluded.

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