Sevens star Kildunne wants Olympic glory - just like idol Ennis

England's Ellie Kildunne celebrates securing Team GB's qualification for the women's rugby sevens competition at Tokyo 2020

From a very young age, Ellie Kildunne was always obsessed with the Olympics, writes Charlie Talbot-Smith.

She wrote pages and pages for a school project on her heroine Jess Ennis and watched world stars like Usain Bolt on her TV as she bounced around the living room.

But with a year to go until Tokyo 2020, Kildunne is now bouncing off defenders on the World Sevens Series tour, and dreaming of her own Olympic moment in Japan.

Still only a teenager, Kildunne switched last year from XVs to 7s with the Red Roses and has become a key cog in a new-look side that secured Olympic qualification for Team GB in Kazan earlier this month.

Now the Olympic dream is close to becoming a reality – and Kildunne can barely believe it.

“This is my first year in the 7s, I spent Rio watching it on the TV in my living room as a 16-year-old,” she said.

“I can still remember it, and seeing the girls go out there and put Rugby 7s on such a massive stage as the Olympics.

“That was very cool to watch and lit a spark in me, that has burned throughout the last few years and now it becoming more likely that I have an opportunity, touch wood, likely next year.

“Jess Ennis will always be my Olympic hero, I can remember doing an English assignment at school all about her.

“I think I wrote about 6000 words on her! I watched her on TV, watched her in each of her Olympics.

“Then of course guys like Usain Bolt, world stars that you can look up to and aspire to be like.”

Four years ago in Rio, Rugby 7s made its Olympic bow as Team GB’s men’s team took silver.

But the women’s side agonisingly missed out on a medal – something the youngster is keen to put right.

She added: “Each year is another building block, we are growing up as a squad after a lot of changes in the past few years.

“Individuals are always changing but from last season we had eight new caps come in and we are building again.

“We have worked incredibly hard for it and hopefully we can get better again with high hopes that we can do as well as we can.

“It is very nice to see where the game has gone since then, this season has been incredible. The level is getting higher and higher.”

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Kildunne has surprised even herself with her performances since making the permanent switch to the shorter format.

A teenage sensation in the XV a side game, she scored a try on debut for England, but now is only dreaming of Tokyo and picking her more experienced teammates’ brains whenever she can.

She added: “You always surprise yourself, but having really great players around me has helped me develop.

“I learn as much from them as I do my coaches, and without them around me I wouldn’t be anywhere near the player I am.

“To come through from 15s to 7s, you have to have good people around you, massive credit to all of them because it helps everyone out.

“I have had a lot of conversations with girls throughout the year about Rio, and I must have watched their kit launch home video about 30 times! Each of them have said how amazing it is.

“The girls were in the lift with Usain Bolt and other amazing big names, they have said it is an amazing experience they will never forget.

“A tournament that will stick with them for the rest of their lives, making history and we want to continue to do that.

“A medal is the aim for the squad, and if we do keep on growing, there is everyone chance that we can do it.”

(Only) One Year to Go. Follow the journey to Tokyo 2020 at TeamGB.com and @TeamGB