Thursday May 26, 2016

Rio Olympics Focus: Team USA and Perry Baker's sizzling tries

In case you haven’t noticed, the current US squad are building an impressive Sevens resume. Having won their first series tournament in London 2015, they followed with an impressive 2015-2016 campaign that saw them place sixth overall, only two points shy of Argentina.

This was the second sixth-place finish in a row, for a team used to life outside the top 10. 

In the past, Rugby has had a hard time competing with other American sports. However, if there is one international sporting event in which the US refuses to take a back-seat, it’s the Olympics.

The fact that the US are the current gold medal holders will not be lost in the overall conversation. The wider American public expects medals… in everything. This could be the door to gaining wider acceptance in the States.

Admittedly, the phrase: A Sleeping Giant is perhaps the most over-used expression in the sport. However, with increased awareness has come increased funding for high-class facilities, high-class coaching and an increased time spent together in training.

Names like Carlin Isles, Danny Barrett, and Perry Baker confirm there is something to the phrase after all. Notably, US captain Madison Hughes also finished topsof the 2015-2016 leaderboard in points and most conversions, while also finishing fourth overall in tackles made.

‘Speedstick’ Baker also locked down a spot on the season’s Dream Team.

Head coach Mike Friday admits the team has come a long way: “We’re not under the radar. We have a great balance of power, pace, and physicality, so we are able to mix it with all those Tier 1 nations.” 

Other coaches are noticing too. “They are a threat to any team,” All Black Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens said. The days of coasting under the radar for the US are over.

With the rest of the world putting a serious effort behind their Sevens campaigns, it remains a long shot for a spot on the podium. But with some bookmakers giving them decent odds, a medal is not fully out of the question.

The parity in Sevens has never been more diverse. Over the past 12 months, there have been seven tounament winners. With better consistency and a strong mental approach, the US have a more than average chance of a medal.

Here is a look at Perry Baker’s excellent four-try haul against New Zealand at the London 7s

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