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Weekend Warriors: Rugby Player Danielle Miano's Olympic Dreams

Danielle Miano trains with the U.S. national rugby team and with the San Diego Surfers -- a local women's rugby team. And she also has a full-time job. Courtesy Paul Rudman

SAN DIEGO -- There are two Danielle Mianos. In public, they rarely mingle. One is a savvy, sharply dressed businesswoman who represents her company at conventions and meets with clients. The other is often bruised, bleeding and caked in mud.

Miano, 30, is account manager for SEACOMP, a tech company in Carlsbad, California, that produces touch-screen displays for devices around the world. The fact that she also trains with the U.S. women's national rugby sevens team isn't something that comes up in conversation with clients.

"I had a meeting up in Orange County ... and I met some engineers," she says of a meeting earlier this year. "Working with them, talking about their project and how to help them. Then they connected with me on LinkedIn and I got an email from [one] right away, 'So you're an Olympic hopeful on the U.S. rugby team? You didn't think to mention that?'"

Miano smiles as she tells the story. What's unusual for others to discover is simply her life.

Since graduating from State University of New York at Fredonia in 2007, Miano has been juggling a full-time tech-industry career with rugby. She worked in sales for two companies in the Boston area while also playing for the Boston Women's Rugby Football Club. She moved west about a year ago for SEACOMP and began playing for the San Diego Surfers, a women's rugby club. Then, at 29, she was invited onto the U.S. national sevens team. Though she's no longer a member of the national team roster, she continues to train with the team, with the aim of making that roster again.

Now, her calendar is jammed and her organizational skills tested. She trains with the Surfers five days a week, with tournaments on Saturdays -- and still makes it to national team practices from 8 a.m. to noon three days a week, plus lifting and fitness sessions during the week and games when scheduled.

She gets up between 5:30 and 6 a.m. most days to check her email and touch base with East Coast customers. On national team days she can work from home. Otherwise, she goes to the office. In the evenings and on weekends, she'll often put in time on her laptop and phone. Her responsibilities are sometimes around the clock, with company offices in Asia.

She admits to long, exhausting days. She's often dashing from practices to conference calls. Thanks to an understanding boss and flexible coaches, it works. "I have the mindset that you keep going," she says. "You don't look back. You just keep going and you always find time to rest [later]."

She has other passions, too: rock climbing, hitting the beach and watching the Buffalo Bills on Sundays. But for her, rugby is No. 1. Since she first discovered it in college, it's been her calling. She loves the physicality, the teamwork and the effort required.

"When you leave the field you feel so accomplished," she says. "And you just feel that you left everything on the field. You don't think about anything but rugby during that time. You may have scrapes and bruises and bumps, but they're just tattoos."

Miano, unlike many working athletes, is fortunate. She went straight into a good-paying career after college, so she's been able to support herself and her rugby pursuit. Balancing the two is difficult but she says it's a plus.

"It's really important mentally to have more than rugby to think about, because I will overthink it," she says. "I could probably leave the company and get a part-time job and spend more time focusing on rugby, and maybe that would help me. But this is the path I've chosen."

She says her company and co-workers have been supportive. She recalls her first week at her new office in Carlsbad, however, when she had to wear "flowy dresses like a hippie for a week or two" because she'd just played a tournament in Arizona and "my skin was like melting off" from the hot, ragged field.

"They just thought it was my style," she says, laughing.

The U.S. women's sevens (called the Eagles) recently qualified to play at next summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Twelve players will be selected from the 24-woman national roster for the Games. Though she's no longer on the roster, she's still hoping and working hard. Since she first learned rugby sevens would make its Olympic debut in Rio, it's been her dream.

"There have been so many obstacles and challenges. I knew it was never going to be easy to even get to where I am now, but for me, making that roster would mean everything. It would mean that if you don't give up, and you don't take no for an answer, and you set that goal for yourself, it can pay off."

Even though she may be an underdog to make the Rio team, she already feels like she's gotten everything she needs from her sport. "Rugby has shaped who I am. The journey will have been worth it, even if I don't make the final roster. I wouldn't trade it for anything."