Thunder Bay·Audio

Kenora, Ont., athlete playing for Canada at Americas Rugby Championship

Growing up, Liam Chisholm had no ambition to play rugby. He didn't even know the rules of the game. But now, the 26-year-old from Kenora, Ont. is playing the game at an international level.

Liam Chisholm grew up playing hockey, but gravitated toward rugby as a teen

Liam Chisholm, from Kenora, Ont., stands at six-feet-seven inches, not an uncommon height for a lock (Chisholm's position) in rugby. (Liam Chisholm)

Growing up, Liam Chisholm had no ambition to play rugby. He didn't even know the rules of the game. 

But now, the 26-year-old from Kenora, Ont., is playing the game at the international level. Currently, he's competing with Team Canada at the Americas Rugby Championship in Uruguay. 

"It's been ... extremely unexpected," Chisholm said of his ascent in the sport. "My entire life growing up, I never would have been able to tell you that I thought this is what I'd be doing, but I'm glad that it is now."

Like so many young athletes from northwestern Ontario, Chisholm's early years were spent on the ice. As a teen he moved from Kenora to Saskatchewan to play hockey at the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame. 

While at school, he was approached by a coach who suggested he give rugby a try. 

The rough and tumble sport turned out to be a perfect fit for Chisholm, who stands at an imposing six-foot-seven inches.

Learning the game

There was, however, a bit of a learning curve in the early days.

"I had a really hard time figuring out the game when I started playing," said Chisholm. "My coach just said, 'if you have the ball, run with it, if you don't, try to hit whoever does.'"

It makes you have to stay hungry and keep pushing for it every time you suit up-Liam Chisholm

After learning the nuances of the game, and honing his skills, Chisholm went on to play rugby for the University of Victoria, and began playing for Canada in 2016.  

Since rugby is not a dominant sport in Canada, Chisholm said he still spends a lot of time explaining the rules of the game to people back home.

"My family will watch and they'll still have to call me after the game and ask, you know, 'what happened out there' sometimes," he said. 

It's a constant fight to stay on the national team roster, he said, because players compete for spots on the squad for each individual tour. 

"There's always a lot of competition for it, and it makes you have to stay hungry and keep pushing for it every time you suit up," he said, adding that he has his sights set on a spot on Canada's 2019 Rugby World Cup team. 

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