Raso thrilled to play for her country in Tokyo: "I just love representing Australia "

An incredible milestone in Hayley Raso’s career arrived as she was selected to represent the Australian Olympic Women’s Football team at Tokyo 2020.

It has been a long-awaited call-up for the Matildas regular, who has featured in her first Olympics after starring for Everton in the FA Women’s Super League.

The former Brisbane Roar winger was understandably thrilled to have been selected for the upcoming competition after narrowly missing out on being part of the Rio 2016 squad.

“It feels incredible to be selected for the Olympics. I feel so happy and proud of myself to be able to say that I’m an Olympian,” Raso said.

“It was really difficult not to be selected to go to the last Olympic Games, but I think that’s why it makes it even more special to be here now. I had so much extra motivation to get myself a ticket to go. Like I said, to be sitting here, it’s just so special and I’m so proud of myself.”

Raso gearing up to take on Japan

The road to Tokyo has not been smooth with the Raso having had to overcome a raft of injuries, most significantly, a broken back while playing for Portland Thorns in August 2018.

“I think I always dreamed of being an Olympian but it was definitely heightened after I broke my back. I was going through a pretty intense and gruelling recovery but I set my mind to getting back into the national team to be able to go to the Olympic Games,” Raso said.

“I worked really hard and got myself back into the team and now I’m sitting here and I am going to the Olympic games so it’s like all the hard work paid off.”

ULTIMATE GUIDE: How to watch the Matildas at Tokyo 2020

She was quick to call home when she was given the ticket to Tokyo and her family were quick to pass on their congratulations despite the news arriving in the middle of the night.

“It was early of the morning back home in Australia but I texted my mum and brother and then I texted the rest of my family and they texted me straight back, so I think they were waiting up to hear the news.”

It was quite a significant moment for the Everton winger, “It was amazing, I think they’ve been a part of my journey for so long. They’ve seen me overcome a lot of challenges and they’ve been there when I’ve come out the other side stronger, so they’re the people I want to share this with,” she added.

The Matildas star is still coming to terms with her selection but is extremely grateful to have been given the chance to represent her nation at such a prestigious event.

Australia's forward Hayley Raso (L) works around New Zealand's midfielder Olivia Chance during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women's group G first round football match between Australia and New Zealand at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on July 21, 2021. (Photo by Yoshikazu TSUNO / AFP) (Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images)

“I just have so much pride, I love representing Australia and it just makes it a lot more special to do it at an Olympic Games.

"Even just talking about it now, I get goosebumps.

It means so much, it’s hard to describe. I really do feel proud of myself for overcoming adversities and coming out stronger but I also feel pride for representing my family and all the people who have been there and supported me from the start.”

On a lighter note, when asked about her first memory of the Olympic Games, she had quite a special story to share.

“In the Sydney 2000 Olympics, there were the three mascots: Syd, Olly and Millie. My brother and I actually named our cat Millie after the echidna.”

Watch Hayley and the Matildas take on the US and join the Matildas Bronze Medal Watch Party below:

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