View Park alum Nia Toliver will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics with Team USA women’s rugby. For Toliver, her trip to Tokyo with Team USA has come in full circle in two different ways; Toliver was invited to Olympic development training camps while she was in high school, and she played professional Rugby in Japan.
When she visited the Olympic Center in her youth, Toliver was not fully immersed in the environment. Returning to USA Rugby, Toliver plots to take advantage of her opportunity.
“I think that was a big thing for me, just being here now versus being younger,” Toliver said. “My time is now, I’m in it, I’m fighting, I’m competing.”
Toliver is a reserve for the team, she will be called to compete if one of her teammates gets injured. As much as she wants to compete, she does not want to see one of her teammates get injured.
“I want a chance, but again you don’t want the chance to be off of someone else’s demise,” Toliver said. “But at the end of the day, it is what it is, and you still have 11 other people depending on you.”
As they prepared for Tokyo, the women’s rugby team competed in Dubai in the Emirates Invitational. With a 5-6 record, Team USA came in third place at the event.
“One of the [players] got hurt, so they had to move me up,” Toliver said. “I’m really mentally prepared for that, so I did a good job, performance-wise.”
Toliver competed professionally in Japan for two years, playing for the Hokkaido Barbarians Diana. During her first season as a pro player in Japan, the season lasted four months out of the year. She was one of five foreigners the teams are allotted to have. Highlights show her explosive speed and suffocating defense.
Along with having Japanese teammates, Toliver had teammates from Australia and New Zealand. Through this experience, Toliver met people that she still stays in touch with.
Instead of going back to the United States during the offseason, Toliver lived in Japan and practiced CrossFit, yoga, and jiu-jitsu. She also began learning the language with the help of the Barbarians.
“I really didn’t start to practice Japanese until about my last year there,” Toliver said. “They enrolled me into this Japanese language school.”
Toliver worked at a daycare; her presence there taught the youth about different racial groups. She enjoys traveling to different places despite not being fluent in their main language.
“A lot of my friends, they always ask me how I’m able to go somewhere where the culture is completely different and I can’t even speak the language,” Toliver said. “But I feel like that’s what makes it fun, that’s interesting to me.”
Competing in View Park Rugby allowed Toliver to visit several different countries. She lived in New Zealand for two months to hone her skills at the Burnside high school Rugby Academy. She improved her passing skills in New Zealand.
“I really put my foot on the gas as far as running on my own time and just putting in that extra work,” Toliver said. “I was able to see the fruits of my labor in New Zealand.”
All the traveling she did with View Park taught her to learn about the world and made her a more accepting person.
“When you are exposed to different cultures at a young age, it takes you out of your usual environment,” Toliver said. “That causes a lot of growth.”