MAIN STREET, USA – Can anyone remember the last time rugby was in the Summer Olympics? How about who won the last gold medal in rugby in the Olympics? The answers: 1924 in Paris and believe it or not… the United States won gold. That’s right, Team USA beat France and Romania to win the gold medal. France took the silver after losing to the Eagles, 17-3 and Romania grabbed the bronze. Granted, these were the only countries to be playing in the event… but still.
Fast forward to present day – almost a century later – and Team USA is not the best team in the world. NBC Sports Network has recently developed, and will be playing, a heavy amount of rugby on their station, however, and this is a game-changer. Rugby – like ice hockey – has a friend in NBC Exec Jon Miller, so we like him… twice.
Just recently, our man Johnathan Wicklow Barberie was in Vegas for the NBC-covered Vegas 7s, along with correspondent Matt McCarthy and the USA didn’t do well. In fact they have fared poorly in the HSBC Sevens Series to date. Meanwhile, the dominant teams in both 7s &15s are still New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England and France. But four years from now when rugby gets back into the Summer Olympics in Rio and has Olympic funding and network coverage under its belt, who knows??? A USA repeat could happen…
Rugby @ Olympic Games 1924 – USA b France 17-3 from Frederic Humbert on Vimeo.
U.S.A. Rugby is for the first time, signing professional contracts to players in both men’s and women’s rugby. THE FIRST TIME! And this only happened this January. 15 men and 8 women now train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
Training at the Olympic Training Facility with other Olympians has given a lot of hope and has been rubbing off on the rugby players present, who are not preparing for the London Olympics this summer.
“They’ve got a goal, and they are setting their minds to it.” U.S. Winger Colin Hawley said. “You can tell by their work ethic and their attitude every single day being there, this is a lifestyle. This is the choice to do something great, and you’ve just got to buy into it.”
Even though the rugby Olympians are not training for this year’s Olympics, they are still making a lot of progress towards a successful trip to Brazil. The contracted players will all have the opportunity to build chemistry with the HSBC Sevens World Series and plenty of other tournaments in between now and the Olympics in Rio. One tournament the athletes will not be able to participate in is the next World Cup, in England in 2015. The athletes have to make a decision to participate in only one of the events.
For Colin Hawley, that decision would be easy. “Every person’s dream is to be an Olympian.” he said. “I think I would have to lean that way, but hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.”
Hawley also hopes something can be worked out so Americans can play in both events.
The question I ask you is this: If you were one of these athletes and could only play in one event, which one would you choose?