NewsIn Focus


In Focus: Co-Captain of USA Women's Rugby Sevens on journey to Tokyo

Posted: 6:05 AM, Jul 28, 2021
Updated: 2021-07-28 18:21:46-04
Gustaitis Team Photo.jpg
Abby Gustaitis Zoom Screenshot

BALTIMORE — Abby Gustaitis grew up playing basketball.

"And then, I wasn't going to go to college and play basketball," she says. "I ended up going to University of Maryland, College Park and I thought my sporting career was over."

Then, she got a flyer for a rugby team.

"I immediately was drawn into the crowd that rugby brought and just how welcoming it was," Gustaitis recalled as she sat in her room at Olympic village in Tokyo.

Ten years later, she's the co-captain of the USA Women's Rugby Sevens team.

The games were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's been a wild year and a half," says Gustiatis.

She shared her experience as the world shut down.

"March 13 was our last day of training. We got sent home and then we had a Zoom meeting," she said. "We're like, what the heck is Zoom?"

The team was told they'd be doing remote training from home for 3-4 weeks.

She didn't train again with her teammates until August and they didn't play in a tournament again until March of this year.

"It was a complete roller coaster, like the emotional draining experience that that was and just the unknown if they were actually going to go on in 2021," Gustaitis says.

But ahead the games went - with COVID protocols in place.

"I think the COVID part hasn't shocked us in Tokyo because we were luck to get to travel," she says.

The protocols require players to wear masks expect in their rooms, wear gloves to get food after sanitizing and washing hands.

There are barriers up between every seat in the cafeteria, and the games have been scheduled so that teams only interact with the team they are playing against, and won't run in to any others.

The athletes are also tested for COVID every morning.

COVID rules also prohibited another Baltimore athlete from bringing her mother to help guide her.

Deaf-blind Paralympic athlete Becca Myers withdrew from the games.

Gustaitis says she was incredibly disappointed when she heard about it.

"I felt that was absolutely appalling that she wasn't able to bring her mom with her," she told WMAR-2 News. "To be expected to navigate this huge place on her own or with someone she doesn't know."

The USA Women's Rugby Sevens plays China Thursday morning at 10am Japan Standard Time or tonight at 9pm Eastern Time.