Aussie athlete's Israel Folau swipe in Tokyo Olympics gesture

·3-min read
Seen here, rugby sevens star Sharni Williams and former Wallaby Israel Folau.
Sharni Williams' gesture flies in the face of Israel Folau's controversial beliefs. Pic: Getty

The women's rugby sevens competition hasn't kicked off at the Tokyo Olympics yet, but Aussie co-captain Sharni Williams is already kicking goals.

A proud advocate and spokesperson for the LGBT+ community, Williams has been given the green light by the International Olympic Council (IOC) to wear specially designed rainbow headgear throughout the tournament in Tokyo.

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Williams - who proposed to her partner Mel earlier this year - is taking advantage of a relaxation of the rules by the IOC, which will allow athletes to express themselves at the Games.

Competitors will be permitted to take a knee before events or make other statements as long as they aren't disrespectful to others or conducted on the podium.

The IOC's approval means Williams can wear the rainbow headgear that she shared on social media before the Games, while explaining its significance.

The rugby sevens star provided a brutal snub for Israel Folau last year when asked for her thoughts on news at the time that the controversial former Wallaby had landed a new contract in Europe.

“I don’t know who you are talking about,” Williams said at the time.

Folau was famously sacked by Rugby Australia after sharing religious posts on social media that stated homosexuals would go to hell.

Williams says she is proud to be able to go out onto the biggest international sporting stage there is with her message of inclusiveness.

Pictured here, the rainbow headgear Sharni Williams will wear during the Tokyo Olympics.
Sharni Williams has been given approval by the IOC to rock her rainbow headgear during the rugby sevens tournament in Tokyo. Pic: Getty

'Rugby is a game for all'

"As the saying goes and as I’ve always said, Rugby is a game for all," Williams posted to Instagram, alongside photos of her in the rainbow headgear.

"It’s where I first felt comfortable and accepted for who I was. That inclusivity plays a big part in why I still choose to play rugby today.

"Visibility and awareness is an important part of making the world of sport a better and safer place for members of the LGBTQI+ community.

"So I’ve teamed up with Gilbert to create this amazing rainbow headgear that shows my pride in being part of this incredible community. Hopefully this encourages others in the sporting world, young and old, to get out and wave their pride loudly also."

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Williams was part of the Aussie women's sevens team that captured the hearts of a nation after claiming gold at the 2016 Rio Games.

While the Aussies will no doubt consider themselves genuine medal contenders again in 2021, New Zealand looms as arguably the biggest obstacle in their way of winning gold again in Tokyo.

Australia went down to the Black Ferns Sevens 26-5 the last time the two sides met, at the Oceania Sevens in June this year.

The Aussies kick off their Olympics campaign with a first-up match against hosts Japan on Thursday, June 29th, before facing China and the USA in their other Pool C matches.

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