THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
One of the fastest growing sports, in both participation and supporter attendance, is Rugby Sevens. Popular tours around the world and individual countries' own tournaments make for an enjoyable day out or a weekend full of fast paced action. The Olympics are the pinnacle of an athlete's career, and Sevens was finally voted in as an official event for Rio in 2016, after losing out in a bid to have it installed at the London 2012 summer games. Using a similar system as the IRB Rugby World Sevens, the Men's and Women's event in Rio was one of the highlights, with Fiji winning the Gold in the men's contest and Australia grabbing the top podium place in the women's series.
Last week Team USA announced the fifteen women who are aiming to do better, in the Olympic Games later this month, than the 5th place that the team earned in Rio. After a successful warm up last weekend in Carson, California, they are very well prepared. They won four of the five games, drawing the only game they did not win, including a 71-0 thrashing of Jamaica, with the remaining games against Team GB.
The Olympic events take place in the first week of the games in Tokyo. The opening ceremony is on 23 July and the women's sevens take place between 29-31 July, making it one of the early gold medal moments to look out for.
Head Coach Chris Brown is full of pride when speaking of the roster he has assembled:
"In the past month we've had our most competitive intrasquad scrimmages since I started the program back in 2018. All individual players contributed heavily and showed, if called upon, they could represent this wonderful country at the highest level well. This obviously made the selection of the extended squad extremely tough but the unity we have shown for the past 18 months has been second to none.
"As a team, we have great strike power across the park. But looking at the increasing progress and competitiveness of the women's game, we won't be anywhere near winning a gold medal if we play as individuals as opposed to working as a group."
The roster comprises of 12 starters, one alternative, and two trailing reserves. There are two co-captains, Abby Gustaitis and Kristen Thomas. Only two of the women played in the last Olympics, so this is a largely rookie squad in terms of the games, the two that have been there before are Lauren Doyle and Alev Kelter.
Kayla Canett-Oca – Halfback/Flyhalf
Lauren Doyle – Flyhalf/Wing
Cheta Emba – Prop
Abby Gustaitis – Prop/Hooker
Nicole Heavirland – Hooker/Scrumhalf
Alev Kelter – Center/Prop
Kristi Kirshe – Center/Wing
Ilona Maher – Center/Prop
Jordan Matyas – Prop
Ariana Ramsey – Wing
Naya Tapper – Wing
Kristen Thomas – Hooker/Center
Nia Toliver – Prop/Wing (Alternate)
Kasey McCravey – Hooker/Flyhalf (Trailing reserve)
Nana Fa'avesi – Prop/Wing (Trailing reserve)
In 2020 the team were fifth placed in the World Series when the pandemic hit and play was stopped. So, coupled with the past weekend's preparation Team USA seems to be in a good place as they head out to Japan. They fly out in mid-July, before setting up a week's training camp in Mimasaka, ahead of a final transfer to Tokyo.
Team USA are placed in Pool C and have some stiff competition. Hosts Japan are alongside the current champions Australia. Debutantes China round off the group after they qualified by beating Hong Kong 33-0 in the Asian qualifier.
The other groups are Pool A: New Zealand, Great Britain, Kenya and the Russian Olympic Committee team; and Pool B, an extraordinarily strong group: Canada, France, Fiji, and Brazil.
Keep an eye out for these fast-paced, action filled games, and hope that Team USA can achieve a podium finish.