A local couple is beaming with pride, after their granddaughter helped Canada earn a silver medal at the recent women’s World Cup of rugby.
Al and Bunny Turner have lived in the valley for 40 years, but one of their proudest moments occurred earlier this month in France, when their granddaughter Jessica Gaudry Dovanne helped Canada’s women’s rugby team battle to the championship match for the first time ever.
Although the Canadian women ultimately came up short against England in the final match and had to settle for silver, the Turners are still delighted.
“Canada is really starting to get into it with the women’s rugby, so we were really quite proud to have Jessica there playing,” said Bunny.
Al has a particular attachment to Jessica’s rugby career, since he played rugby when he was in the military, in almost the same position as Jessica. Jessica plays wing, while Al played fly-wing (just outside the wing position).
“It was a long time coming; she had been working hard at it for years,” said Al, speaking about Jessica’s part in the team’s best-ever World Cup performance.
“It was a great accomplishment for both her and the team,” he said.
“It feels amazing, we were so supported,” said Jessica. “We absolutely went into the tournament with the goal of medalling, so even though some of the other teams, such as England or France, probably weren’t expecting Canada to reach the final given our previous results in World Cups (fourth and sixth places), we were not surprised.”
Jessica has been playing rugby for 12 years, starting in high school and initially began playing for Canada’s national sevens rugby team (a version of rugby played with seven players on a team), then moved to playing the full game (which has 15 players on each team).
“The 15 is the game I fell in love with, so it’s great to be playing it for Canada,” said Jessica. “It’s been a long haul, but this (World Cup) has definitely been a dream.”
Jessica has spent many summer vacations in Windermere, visiting her grandparents, and has fond memories of the valley.
“I love Windermere, it’s a great place,” she said, recalling a particular affinity for the valley’s mini golf and go-kart opportunities.
Jessica has had four knee surgeries, the most recent in December, which has led her to the difficult recent decision to retire — for the time being — from sevens rugby. Instead, she will focus solely on the full game, a move that means she likely won’t be suiting up for the Canadian women’s Olympic team.
The Rio 2016 Olympics will be the first to feature men’s or women’s rugby, but the countries will play sevens rugby there rather than the full game.