There's a new sport taking over at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista these days, but they’re not practicing for the London games.
The USA team is now calling the facility home, as Rugby sevens will be reintroduced into the summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s a huge validation for our sport. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world, especially in America, and it’s got a real potential to grow,” said Blaine Scully. “The Olympics is bringing notoriety and a certain excitement around our sport, which there hasn’t been, really, for a long time.”
Scully was 18 when he started playing Rugby five years ago. He has played for UCLA for two years, was named to the All-American side in 2008 and has competed in four HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments for the USA, according to USARugby.org.
For those not familiar with the game, Scully describes rugby as a combination between football, soccer and the special awareness and creativity of basketball.
“The score is similar to football, where you have a touchdown. But in rugby, you actually have to physically touch the ball to the ground and where you touch that ball down, is where you kick your extra point from,” said Scully.
The game is believed to have originated in Rugby, England in 1823. Legend has it that a student, called William Webb Ellis, caught the ball during a soccer match at Rugby School and started to run.
Rugby’s first appeared in the Olympics was in 1900. Its last appearance was in 1924.
“I think it’s long overdue, but better late than never having it,” said Al Caravelli, who coaches a part time team. ”And to have it in a place like Rio, the sevens brings a kind of festive atmosphere as well, which attracts a young crowd.”
Caravelli says he’s excited about the prospect of going to the Olympics, but says his team has a lot of work to do.
“If we want to win a gold medal in 2016, we’ve got to get these guys starting to be full time, professional athletes,” Caravelli said.
Rugby was reinstated for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games after a vote in 2009 by the International Olympic Committee.
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