Former Concordia Stingers Rugby Player Heading To Rio Olympics

Bianca Farella Gunning for Olympic Gold at Rio 2016

Fromer Stinger Bianca Farella will travel down to Rio to represent Canada at the Rio Summer Games Photo Lorne Collicutt
Former Stinger Bianca Farella will travel down to Rio to represent Canada at the Rio Summer Games Photo Lorne Collicutt

Bianca Farella follows a strict weekly routine. The 24-year-old Canadian rugby sensation starts each Monday with speed training followed by a 15-minute snack break before heading onto the field for drills. Then, she eats lunch and heads back to work, this time weightlifting. This pattern repeats on Wednesday and Friday. The two other days of the week are often used to play full-contact games or touch rugby.

Farella is used to intensive training for games and competitions; it’s a regular part of an athlete’s lifestyle. All her efforts are being channelled towards one of the biggest competitions in the world: the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She was named to team Canada’s starting 12 in early July.

“All my hard work has come through; my dream has come true,” said Farella. “I still haven’t really had my ‘aha’ moment of ‘you’ve made it’ but I think I’m gonna get it once we travel.”

The Summer Games is a new challenge for the decorated Farella. In 2013, she won a silver medal at the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in the Netherlands. She was then named captain in 2014 and led her team to a gold medal at the sixth World University Championship in Brazil.

Last year, she had won gold at the Pan American Games in Toronto but was held out of the tournament after sustaining a shoulder injury.

The inclusion of rugby in the Olympic Games provides her with an opportunity to
go beyond the World Cup — the highest level of competition available for rugby players.

“Once it was announced that [rugby] was gonna be in the Olympics, I was like ‘OK, this
is awesome, I play that sport,’” said Farella. “This could be something.”

Not only is it Farella’s first ever appearance at the Olympics, but it’s also the first time that rugby will be a part of the games since 1924. Back then, it was played in the fifteen-a-side format, which involved having 15 players on each side of the field.

While that style still exists today, rugby sevens, or seven players per side, has become increasingly popular with its faster pace and shorter games.

Since coach John Tait announced the 12 players heading to the Games, the spotlight has shone on Farella and her teammates— more so than ever before.

“This is the first time we ever had this much exposure,” said Farella. “And it’s only gonna keep [increasing].”

Farella welcomes change. She moved to British Columbia at the age of 20. The opportunity to join the national team opened the door for her to pursue rugby professionally.

“[…] When we found out that she was selected amongst the 12 that are going to Rio, I was teary-eyed no doubt,” said her proud father, Lorenzo Farella. “She’s a big girl […], she’s got both feet on the ground [and] she knows exactly where she’s going.”

However, her parents weren’t always so keen on her choice of sport. “The second I started playing rugby, they always hesitantly signed the waiver forms and were kind of like ‘I’m not sure why you’re doing this but OK keep going,’” joked Farella.

Naturally, her parents fear the potential for injury in such a high-contact sport. It’s something her father didn’t even want to think about. As for the rugby star, she copes with this reality by performing a pre-game ritual.

“I go to [teammate Jen Kish] and say ‘Kish, tell me that pain is my friend,’” said Farella. “And she goes ‘pain is your friend B’, and then I go.”

Before moving away to British Columbia, Farella was enrolled at Concordia University for one year. She also played for the Stingers women’s rugby team. While she only donned the maroon and gold jersey for one season, Farella left her mark. She was named the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) league’s 2012 women’s rugby rookie of the year.

Losing her to the national squad was “heartbreaking” for Stingers’ rugby head coach Graeme Mcgravie.

“I always wonder what it would have been like if she had stayed for sure,” he said. “But she was always destined to play at another level.”

Once her rugby career is over, Farella will be looking to pursue a career in psychology. But as she prepares to depart for pre-camp in Toronto this Saturday, she is focused on leaving her mark at the Summer Games.

“Our goal is to win gold,” she said.