US Rugby sevens team emerging as a potential dark horse contender for Rio Olympic Games.
For the first time since 1924, Rugby sevens will be reintroduced to the Olympic Games in Rio this August. After coach Mike Friday took over the team about 18 months ago, the team has shown vast improvements. At the end of last season, they won a world series tournament, the top competition in the sport for the first time and won their regional Olympic qualifying tournament.
The team is led by two cross-sport athletes who have converted into Rugby only in recent years. Perry Baker, a former receiver for the Fairmont State University football team and former Arena Football League player for the Pittsburgh Power. He now plays wing alongside former US Olympic sprinter, Carlin Isles, who after his debut in 2012, he was labeled the fastest man in Rugby.
Even New Zealand, currently the gold medal favorites, have noticed the Unites States' improvement.
"If you look at the balance of that U.S.A. squad, they've played sevens for a long time, they've been together for a while now and they've got a very good coach," New Zealand Coach Gordon Tietjens said. "They are a threat to any team."
The United States will look to shock the world this summer, and placing first rugby sevens Olympic tournament in 92 years will do just that. While the game was different back then, they may want to look back for some inspiration, as the US team beat the heavily favored France in Paris that year.
- Nolan Connor
Photo Credit: NBC Sports