Team USA Eagle 7s star, Matthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins, who is also now working with Serevi, contributes weekly on Rugby Wrap Up – technology permitting.
SAN DIEGO, CA – Wednesday marked the 100 days until the Summer Olympics in London. That gets me real excited, but at the same time its a little frustrating. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.
Imagine if we had Sevens as an exhibition sport this summer and what it would have done not just for the Sevens profile, but also what it would have meant to so many people and so any organizations. If you think about it, we sit here in the USA where the Olympics is something that thousands and thousands of athletes have trained for, over years and years of their lives, just to qualify for the team. To be part of a team like that is an incredible experience. Who knows how many medals will come from Team USA. In 2008 Team USA brought home 36 Gold medals, 38 Silver medals and 36 Bronze medals. That’s a remarkable tally and something that is very special to be a part of. All in all Team USA has attended 46 Games, won 1016 Gold medals, 824 Silver medals and 709 Bronze medals for a whopping total of 2549 medals.
Now you can start to see how important it is for us as USA Rugby to have a team at the Olympics. Just being there and being a part of Team USA elevates who we are as a sport and as a NGB. It would truly be something to acknowledge. And while being there would have been invaluable to the USA Sevens program, it would have been, arguably, even more of a boost for the smaller nations. Samoa, for instance, attended 7 previous summer Olympics but have never won a medal. This summer they would have had a legitimate chance at winning a Gold medal. Think what that would do for that country and how it would raise awareness of their efforts. It’s astonishing what the vehicle Rugby could do for these smaller nations, the USA and more importantly, for rugby as a whole.
A direct comparison, would be to look at the X-treme sports world. Sean White explodes on to the scene through X Games. Snowboarding was added to the Winter Games in 1998 and through White’s talent and efforts, is now provided the world greatest stage – the Olympics – to raise himself and the profile of extreme sports to super star status.
The Summer Games XXX will start on July 27 in London and will run through to August 12. When this spectacle starts, just take a minute to think what it’s done for sports, for nations and for individuals as the sporting and entertainment landscape has changed and morphed. I think you will find yourself in a similar place; very excited but at the same time a little frustrated.