A perennial Team USA Eagle, Phaidra Knight is one of the most recognized names in women’s rugby. Today, she chats with fellow Eagle & New York Rugby Club mate,Vanesha McGee.
PK: V, I am happy to talk to you today and thanks for taking the time.
V: Well, when you “ask” me to do something for you while flexing your guns…
PK: What ‘chu talking ‘bout Willis? Where did you grow up and what sports did you play as a teenager?
V: I grew up in New Jersey, but traveled to high school in Pennsylvania. I played tennis and lacrosse which I loved! I also ran track, which isn’t usually a surprise to people.
PK: Hmm, I see. Were you any good at them?
V: I don’t think I was very good at tennis, but I loved to play. I was okay at lacrosse, but I played before I decided contacts were a good idea and had quite a bit of trouble seeing the ball. I was pretty decent in track, especially hurdles and triple jump. I made it to the state championships a few times which was pretty cool.
PK: Guess that explains your supernatural ability to jump over opponents while striding. And exactly when did you start playing rugby? Where? What was your original position?
V: I started playing rugby my freshman year at Temple University, in 2002, thanks to a flyer posted next to my dorm elevator. I started out at wing, played center and a little flyhalf, then settled in at fullback.
PK: When did you start playing rugby for the USA, both 7s and 15s?
V: I started playing USA 15s in 2007, shortly after the World Cup. Playing USA 7s started a little later, maybe 2008-my memory’s not the best.
PK: Getting old are we?
V: (Crickets chirping)
PK: Alrighty then, moving on… Who has been your toughest opponent?
V: Every game and every opponent is always tough in different ways. 7s is usually pretty challenging for me no matter who the other team is.
PK: What has been your best rugby moment?
V: People always ask this question and I never know the answer. Rugby’s just too good to have a best moment. Some of my top moments are winning the club championship with NYRC in 2006, the US/Nat scoring a try against England at the World Cup, beating Canada in the final match in 2010, and being with my besties on tour.
PK: Who are your favorite 5 players of all time?
V: Another hard question. I love pretty much every woman in the back line from the 2006 US World Cup team. I don’t watch enough international rugby to have a favorite there, but Jonah Lomu’s moves still get me fired up.
PK: You are pretty dang fast. Very deceivingly fast because you run so gracefully. Do you think you could win a footrace with Usain Bolt? What about a wrestling match? Tackle off? Rock, paper, scissors?
V: HAAAAA! I’m pretty sure he would crush me in all of those! But you might stand a chance with the wrestling or tackle off-let me know when you do it and I’ll interview you afterwards.
PK: You’re a funny girl. My good friend Fontaine Lloyd was curious about your driving history. Exactly how many car accidents have you had and how many were you at fault? Any of them a result of driving too fast?
V: Hey! I’m a good driver…now that I have a license. Almost all of my accidents happened when I had a permit, I think. I wish I could say none of them were my fault, but I’d be lying. Once I got my license though people just started crashing into me, which may have been because I drive so slowly.
PK: Folks, take it as a warning. Get off the roads. Ok, back to rugby. What’s the dirtiest thing you have ever done to an opponent in a match?
V: I don’t think I’m a dirty player, but once Vix and I had a five second rumble, really an on the ground shoving match. I wonder if she even remembers that.
PK: Do you have your hopes set on play in Rio in 2016?
V: It certainly would be amazing to play at the Olympics. Right now I’m focusing on this year and getting myself ready for what’s to come.
PK: Do you think the USA has a chance to medal? If so, what will it take, from your perspective, for us to do just that?
V: Absolutely! USA is a strong team with very strong, determined athletes. It’s going to take a lot of hard work over the next five years to be on top of the podium in 2016 and I know it can happen.
PK: V, thanks so much for taking the time to share a little of yourself with the world. Maybe we can get a video interview with you soon so that folks can get to know you even better?