Who is Ilona Maher? US rugby Olympian hailed as the “TikTok Queen”

Meera Jacka
Ilona Maher split image

American rugby union player Ilona Maher has not only competed at the Olympics but also taken over social media as the “TikTok Queen”.

After a childhood packed with a variety of sports, Ilona Maher began competing internationally in women’s rugby following her nursing degree at Quinnipiac University.

By 2020, Maher had earned herself a spot on the Olympic team as the center and went on to compete in Tokyo’s Summer Games in 2021 after a one-year postponement.

It was during this time that the rugby star found a following online documenting her experiences as a first-time Olympic competitor, quickly resulting in Maher blowing up on TikTok.

Why is Ilona Maher known as the “TikTok Queen”?

While her “amazing journey and accomplishments” undoubtedly helped Maher’s reach online, it was her openness, positivity, and approachability that ensured the Rugby player captured viewers’ hearts.

Much of Maher’s account focuses not only on her own experiences as an athlete but also on celebrating body positivity and female strength, shutting down those attempting to put her down.

In an Instagram post on August 20, 2023, Maher aimed her caption at any “girl with the big shoulders”, telling them to “put your shoulders back, wear your head high, and walk into any room like you own the place.”

Maher’s videos have also provided fans insight into the famous Olympics that is often not found elsewhere.

Her upcoming return to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris has left many excited to share her journey on TikTok, and Maher plans to deliver, telling Seven Days she considers social media her “second job”.

“I’m a rugby player first, but the social aspect is such a big part of me,” the rugby star told the publication, and it’s something her followers are evidently grateful to contribute toward.

“Every time I see you on my screen it feels like a good luck charm,” one person commented on one of Maher’s TikTok videos.

In the comment section of another video, a fan shared their excitement for Maher’s return to the Summer Games in 2024: “I’ve been here since the last Olympics, ready for season 2!”