CARLIN ISLES EXCLUSIVE: FROM TROUBLED TIMES TO TOKYO 2020

The world’s fastest rugby sevens player tells Olympic Channel how his path to sporting stardom was far from a straight sprint.

By Andrew Binner | The Olympic Channel | May 31, 2019

 

To say that Carlin Isles is a fighter, would be a grave understatement.

Today the American is known as the fastest rugby sevens player in the world, whose breath-taking athleticism has led to stardom within the sport.

He has endorsement deals, a significant social media following and travels the world following his dream.

But the reality is that not so long ago, the same rugby star was forced to eat dog food while living rough on the streets.

Isles helped Team USA to qualify for Tokyo 2020, and sat down with Olympic Channel to tell us about his troubled upbringing, an early break in the NFL and his plans to compete as a sprinter and a rugby player at the Olympic Games in Japan.NEWS

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Illiterate, fighting and homeless

Growing up in Ohio, rugby was just about the last thing on Isles’ mind. In fact, he was just trying to survive.

“I got taken away from my mother when I was young, and I saw her get locked up in a police car and that was the last time I saw her,” the 29 year old told Olympic Channel.

“My twin and I used to sleep in the car, we were in homeless shelters and we had to eat dog food. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write when I was younger and I dealt with a lot of issues, especially emotionally.”

“I used to get in fights a lot to protect my twin and I and that was tough for me and I learned a lot about myself and how to be a fighter and how to overcome obstacles and things in life. Life hit me hard I had to fight to go through adversity.”

The ‘weird kid’ with a sporting gift

But Isles didn’t use his upbringing as an excuse to give up, or turn down a negative path.

Instead, he used his hardship as motivation to become a sportsman and an Olympian.

“I was a weird kid, I didn’t go to high school dances, proms, I didn’t go to none of that, all I did was work out,” he continued.

“I’d work out, study film, wake up at 5am and race the school buses up the hill.

“I was just different, I knew I was different and wanted to be somebody in life and I’d do whatever it took to get there.

The vehicle that Isles initially thought would take him there was not rugby, but track and field.

At Jackson High School, Isles’ sporting gift was realised and he broke several state athletics records. He was also an all-county American football player.

Real-life Hollywood story

In a story of triumph against adversity, it seems entirely appropriate that Hollywood provided another source of strength and inspiration to a young Isles.