Kristi Kirshe starred in soccer at Franklin High, and only picked up rugby in her first year at Williams College, but now the 26-year-old is headed to the Tokyo Olympics as a center/wing for the US women’s rugby sevens team.
Kirshe is one of 12 starters on the roster, announced Thursday, which also includes three reserves and 10 coaches, trainers, and health experts. The 5-foot-5-inch, 160-pounder is one of 10 starters headed to their first Olympics, with Lauren Doyle and Alev Kelter the returners from the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The US finished fifth at the 2016 Games, but claimed five medals in six tournaments to end 2019 ranked No. 2 in the world. The US was ranked fifth in 2020 when the World Rugby Sevens Series was disrupted by the pandemic.
The 15-player roster was selected from a larger group of candidates that had been training under head coach Chris Brown.
“In the past month, we’ve had our most competitive intrasquad scrimmages since I started with the program back in 2018,” said Brown. “All individual players contributed heavily and showed, if called upon, they could represent this wonderful country at the highest level well.
“This obviously made selection of the extended squad extremely tough, but the unity we’ve shown for the past 18 months has been second to none.”
Kirshe, who also played soccer at Williams, joined the Northeast Academy and Boston Rugby after graduating. She was selected to join the Women’s Falcons at the Hokkaido Governor’s Cup in 2018 and made her national team debut in 2019 at Sydney Sevens.
The US will compete at Quest for Gold Sevens in Los Angeles from June 25-26 before departing for Japan in mid-July.
The Olympic Games begin July 23, and the women’s rugby sevens competition runs July 29-31.
The US men’s roster will be announced July 2.