Running To A Rio Rugby Dream: Part V

You can play with the Eagles in the Women’s 2010 & 14 Rugby World Cup, you play with the Eagles in the 7s World Cup, now for Rio you can’t play for Team USA?!? WTF?

 Nathalie Marchino 

 Nathalie Marchino 

That’s what we said when with spoke to the former Eagle Nathalie Marchino who is still an Olympic hopeful.  So we had to start there.  And asked Marchino what happened?

Marchino who has been a member of the USA Eagles noted that she is not a USA citizen, and in the past the IRB now World Rugby had different rules than the Olympic games. That’s how guys like A. J. MacGinty played with USA this past summer, or Josh Strauss the South African citizen played for Scotland in the 2015 World Cup.

Marchino has duel citizenship (Switzerland and Colombia) but not the USA; however she is in the process.  Marchino admits, “I always knew that I would have to have a US passport to play with the US National Team.  I am currently on track to apply and receive citizenship ahead of the 2016 games. However, sudden changes to the World Rugby regulations moved the eligibility requirements up a couple of seasons. That’s why I’m no longer able to represent the USA”.

Let us remind you that Marchino has put in her dues for team USA. She has suited up and played for the Eagles in three World Cups! Yeah three! She played 15s in 2010 and 2014 as well as the 2013 7s World Cup.  Marchino said while these are huge accomplishments and honors the Olympics would be in its own category. Like many others Marchino said “It (the Olympics) is the pinnacle of any athletic career where that sport is part of the Olympics”. Playing in Rio would be a dream for her, as it is for most athletes. Marchino recalled that as a child growing up she would watch every Olympic games and all the events that were on TV and like most of us wished to one day be able to walk in the opening ceremonies.

Well the dream is not dashed yet. Marchino who holds a Colombian citizenship is able to play with Colombia in the games (as they’ve qualified).  Marchino says that there are a number of players on the Colombia team which have been playing longer than her. However, Marchino has more international experience (3 world cups to note) and time on the HSBC World Series circuit.  So Marchino will really be a big asset to her new team.

Marchino is not eligible now for the resident program and so  no training full-time at the Olympic Training Center (OTC). Marchino said, “I have been training primarily by myself, with the help of friend and teammates. The hope for me is to be able to take some time off work to go train full-time for a few months before the games.”  We asked Marchino if she’d still be able to access the OTC as a member of the Colombian team as a “guest” since she can’t as a resident. Marchino said, “I haven’t reached out to the OTC yet to see if they would allow me to train there, but not a bad idea!”  Hey we are here to help.

Marchino a highly capped player had told us that some of her Colombian teammates had been in the game longer so we wondered how did she start to play rugby?

A joking Marchino says “Peer pressure”. After some laughter she goes on to say “Seriously though, I had no interest in playing. But I met some players from the DC Furies through mutual friends at a Duke vs. Maryland basketball game. They tried hard to recruit me. I though I was pretty clear that I wasn’t interested in the least. And yet, on Tuesday, they rang my doorbell!!! Essentially they grabbed me and took me to my first practice on the DC Mall”.  Marchino says after a private tackling session she was hooked!

So how did Marchino end up in the Golden State and with the Eagles from playing in DC?  Marchino recalled that she’d heard from a friend that the Eagles were playing in Philadelphia, which was a short drive. She went there and told the then Eagles head coach (and a legend in rugby coaching) Kathy Flores that she was going to be moving very soon to Berkeley for work.  Flores was also coaching with the All Blues at the time.  She did tell coach Flores that she was still new to the game, would be in the area and she really wanted to develop as much as possible. After their chat, Marchino said Flores told her to swing by the All Blues practices when she got out there.

Marchino was at the All Blues training three days later! Coach Flores was shocked to see Marchino out so soon. Marchino recalls, “I was surrounded by Eagles, and was able to soak a lot in from them. I was invited as a body bag to one of their last training camps before the 2006 World Cup in Chula Vista. I took the opportunity to get a feel for the pace of the game at that level.” It was there that Marchino says she really understood what she needed to do to be in that position and started working on those skills.  Marchino recalls fondly “A few months later, I was actually selected to my first selection camp.”

So we all know that rugby isn’t just a game for us it is a way of life.  So we asked how would Marchino’s life be if she had never taken up the game.  Marchino shared with us the following “Rugby has had a deep impact on the person I am today. I was always a very determined person, but rugby gave me to the tools to become better through hard work. It taught me to always be a student, that there is always more to learn”.

An insightful Marchino goes on to say “Rugby has humbled me. I was always pretty athletic. But playing against the best made me realize there is always something to learn, and something to aspire to. It made me want to be better…..but most importantly, rugby has given me friendships that I know I will take to the grave”. AMEN!

Marchino like every rugger has a majority of her friends from the game.  She shared there have also been the travel and opportunities to discover things and places she wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity without rugby. Rugby has been enriching.

Marchino believes that the Resident Program, the inclusion of Rugby 7s will really drive more girls to take up the game“Rugby is a phenomenal sport. Its challenging, but it is fun” notes Marchino. Marchino feels the game does provide benefits to its participants on and off the pitch.  Marchino thinks the game will only grow from here. “We’ve already seen more excitement around the sport now that 7s has been integrated into the Olympic cycle. There are so many companies solely dedicated to the development of sport”.

While we are greatly disappointed that a player like Marchino who has put in the work with the Eagles can’t play with team USA in Rio, we are excited that she still gets and opportunity to be an Olympian and compete. We will be cheering her on this summer, and hope that her focus will inspire the next generation of a Eagles.  We are grateful to Nathalie Marchino for her time and assistance on the story as she has a full schedule as she still works and trains. 
you can follow Marchino on line: Twitter- @swissbeatz, IG- @swissbeatz09 and YouTube- swissbeatz09.