MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Olympic rugby sevens gold medallist Emilee Cherry has made the shock decision to retire two months out from Australia's defence of its women's title at the Tokyo Games.
The 28-year-old mum had hoped to bow out after the Olympics but said her body was not up for it and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic had added to the pressures while trying to juggle care for her one-year-old daughter Alice.
"My body has told me it’s had enough, and the COVID situation with schedules changing so much, and juggling Alice and childcare and (partner) Dan’s schedule ... we made the decision to step back and play a support role going into Tokyo," she said in a Rugby Australia statement on Friday.
One of the linchpins in Australia's 2016 championship at Rio, Cherry scored 131 tries in her career and retires as the seventh-highest point scorer in the sport's history.
The 2014 World Sevens Player of the Year backed Australia's women to succeed at Tokyo in her absence.
"The girls are bigger, faster and stronger than a year ago," she said.
Australian women's coach John Manenti said it was sad to see Cherry depart.
"Emilee has given so much to the team, programme and jersey ... The timing of her departure is unfortunate as I know the whole team was excited to give her the send-off which she deserves."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Stephen Coates)