Incoming Fallbrook High School seniors Michel Navarro and Richelle Stephens are closing out their summer vacations in Nanjing, China, where they are playing rugby in the Youth Olympic Games.
Navarro and Stephens were among 12 girls chosen to represent the United States in the seven-on-seven rugby competition which will be the first International Olympic Committee rugby activity since 1924.
“I’m really excited,” Stephens said.
“It was a great honor,” Navarro said. “I’m really excited and I’m very grateful to be getting this opportunity.”
Navarro and Stephens left for China on Aug. 11. The Youth Olympic Games will take place Aug. 16 through 28. Rugby will be played Aug. 17 to 20, although the athletes will stay in Nanjing for the entirety of the Youth Olympic Games and return to the United States on Aug. 29.
More than 50 girls sought berths on the Youth Olympic Games roster. “That was really prestigious,” Fallbrook Rugby Club co-coach Craig Pinnell said of having two Fallbrook players selected.
“I’m really actually kind of surprised I was chosen,” Stephens said.
“It’s so exciting. We’re providing opportunities for these kids that are just unheard of,” said Fallbrook Rugby Club co-coach Marin Pinnell.
Stephens, who plays fly half in rugby matches with a full 15 players on each squad, will be a fly half in the 7-on-7 tournament. Navarro is a flank on the 15-a-side version and will be a center on the sevens team.
The United States Olympic Committee is paying the expenses of the players selected. Rugby, which has not been an Olympic sport since the 1924 games, will return to the Olympic Games in its sevens format in 2016.