Young athletes were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to prove they could make the cut
On Nov. 15, over 120 male and female athletes headed to Concordia’s Stinger Dome in order to show Rugby Canada scouts if they had what it takes to play rugby sevens at the Olympics.
During the Try for GOLD campaign, scouts have been visiting different cities across the country in order to find athletes aged 15 and up who might be future Olympians. Try 4 GOLD has already visited Toronto and Ottawa, and will be headed to Sherbrooke, Burnaby (B.C.), and Red Deer (AB).
Rugby sevens—which is a version of rugby where only seven players are on each team instead of the usual 15 known as rugby union—is an extremely demanding sport. On top of the usual physical demand of union rugby, sevens also demands a lot of running out of each player. A regular rugby union match lasts 80 minutes, while a sevens match has two seven-minute halves, with only a one-and-a-half minute break.
According to François Ratier, the head coach for Rugby Canada’s National Women’s Fifteens team, the sport is like a crossover between basketball and judo, or even soccer and judo. Ratier, who was at the tryouts on Saturday, used to coach the women’s rugby team at Concordia, and was also assistant coach for the McGill women’s rugby team.
Athletes were tested on two components that would gauge whether or not they would be a good fit for rugby sevens: how fast could they run, and how high they could jump. Although rugby sevens is a variation of the classic 15-player game, the testing for rugby sevens had to be much more specific.
Athletes had to do 10-metre, 30-metre, and 40-metre sprints. Then they would move on to do a broad jump and triple jump. For each test, they were given two tries and their best one would be recorded. Before the testing began, athletes were also measured and weighed. The players with the best results will be called back for a second tryout in British Columbia. According to Ratier, the numbers to beat were, for women, between 5’’2’ and 5’’7’ for the 40-metre sprint, and 7m20 and over for the triple jump. For men, the sprint should be completed in around 5’’ and the triple jump should cover about 9m.
On Saturday, the dome was filled with athletes from different schools, of varied ages and sexes. Since the minimum age requirement is 15, many CEGEP students from Montreal were present. Many Stingers shirts could be spotted around the dome, although athletes from all of Montreal’s major universities were there as well.
Ratier explained that results will be analyzed this week. So far, one Concordia player had impressive sprint records—under five seconds.
The Stinger Dome was chosen in part because Ratier thought that the location and quality of the dome made it an ideal location to hold tryouts.
“Rugby and Concordia just go together,” he said.
Ratier is quite excited to see rugby sevens in the Olympics. The classic rugby game has only ever been played once in the 1924 Olympics. An infamous fight broke out in the final between France and the U.S.A., and it was so violent that it was never played again. In fact, the U.S. won the only ever gold Olympic medal for rugby.
According to Ratier, rugby sevens is a better fit for the Olympics, because it is a much faster game. A classic rugby tournament would last three days, while, a rugby sevens tournament can be completed in a day or weekend. The 2016 Olympics in Rio will be the first ever to include rugby sevens. Who knows, the Canadian team just might have some familiar faces.