The victorious Springbok women's pose with their medals. Photo: @WomenBoks via Twitter
Johannesburg - It's difficult for Alyssa Conley to hide her disappointment. Six months ago, she had her sights firmly set on competing at her second Olympic Games.
Instead, the 28-year-old now finds herself sitting at home and pondering her future after her dream of competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with the Springbok Women's Sevens team was taken away.
“It's far deeper than just me missing out on competing at another Olympic Games,” says Conley. “Women sport in SA, in general, is not getting the opportunity to showcase what they have on a platform like the Olympics."
Conley, a successful track and field athlete in the country, made headlines this year when she announced she would be transitioning from a track athlete to a rugby player. Her main aim was to compete with the Springbok Women's Sevens team at next year's Olympics.
No sportswoman in the country has ever been successful in transitioning from one sport to another.
However, despite qualifying for the 2020 Olympics, Conley and her fellow Springbok teammates were informed by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) last month they would not be sending the team to the games as it does not believe they can win any medals.
Instead, Kenya will be the female rugby team that represents Africa in Tokyo next year.
Conley says she and her teammates are devastated. “It's so demoralising, because how do we then continue training and putting in the hard work when we can't really see a future?”
In 2016, the Women's Sevens Team were denied the opportunity for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It's been a sombre atmosphere at the camp. The girls weren't really informed with what was happening. So before the Africa Cup, the girls worked really hard. They all went there with a positive mindset of wanting to qualify for the Olympics, hoping that this time, it would be different. But it's been deja vu for them and nothing has changed four years later.
“All the players are so disheartened. The girls are sacrificing a normal life to be athletes with the end goal of competing at the Olympics, and that's been taken away from them.”
One of the main reasons she transitioned her sport was to inspire young female athletes in the country “to show them that anything is possible.
“I would have been the first in SA, maybe even Africa, to have successfully transitioned and competed at the Olympics in two sports codes. That would have been amazing, but there was a deeper meaning for my decision.
“I could have been selfish and continued with track and field and qualified for the 200 metres again, but I took this challenge because I wanted to show girls out there that if I can make a national team and play on such a big international platform, they can too.”
While Conley has hinted that she may return to track and field next year, her primary aim now is on making a difference in women's sport in the country.
She plans on launching an NGO to empower women through sport. “I want to be that voice for women in sport. I don't even think we've taken the first step when it comes to women in sport.
“We're losing out on so much of potential. If we look at our social issues like rape, drugs, females that give birth at a young age, unemployment. They need to be shown that they can have a future with sport.”