Senior squad member Salom Yiu Kam-shing readies for last shot at Olympic Gold
The Hong Kong, China men’s sevens squad for the Tokyo Olympics repechage in Monaco (19-20 June) has been announced by the Hong Kong Rugby Union.
With the last remaining men’s spot in Tokyo up for grabs, Hong Kong head coach Paul John has named an experienced group that features most of the squad which was last in action at the World Rugby Sevens Series Challenger Series 15 months ago in South America.
Several veteran campaigners are included in the Olympics eligible squad, including captain Max Woodward, Alex and Tom McQueen, Michael Coverdale, Cado Lee Ka-to, Russell Webb and Raef Morrison.
The squad also features two of the city’s most capped sevens players in Salom Yiu Kam-shing, who has appeared in ten Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens tournaments, and Jamie Hood, with nine under his belt; both represented Hong Kong at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in USA (2017) and Russia (2013).
A number of players pressing their claims before the disruptions of Covid-19 are also in the group, including Max Denmark and Liam Herbert, (both of whom featured at the Asian Olympic qualifier last November), while fellow former U20s stars James Christie and Alessandro Nardoni are also named to the 13-man travel squad, which will be culled to a final 12 in Monaco prior to kick-off.
After disappointedly missing out on Asian qualification for the Japan-hosted games, reigning Asian Games gold medallists Hong Kong now have a tougher path to Tokyo, but the players are intent on keeping their dreams of representing Hong Kong, China at the Olympics alive.
“We are very excited and hungry for this tournament,” said senior squad member Salom Yiu.
“For some of us, this is our last and best shot of going to the Olympics, so we have been treasuring every training opportunity and making sure we are ready both as a team and as individuals.”
Yiu believes the team has not been put off its stride by the lack of international competition due to the pandemic precautions enforced in the last year and a half.
“Our preparation has been smooth, despite the fact that we couldn’t go overseas for training tours or to play against international teams as a build-up. Recently, we ran an intra-team mini tournament at the HKIS that mimicked the format and atmosphere in Monaco to boost our form and mood.
Hong Kong are the second seeds in Pool B behind HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series regulars France, and ahead of Chile, Uganda and Jamaica in Monaco. Two-time Rugby World Cup Sevens bronze medallists Samoa are top seeds in Pool A, joined by Ireland, Tonga, Zimbabwe and Mexico.
“Typically, we would be involved in a lot of competitions throughout the year, both for Hong Kong and for our clubs, but now the repechage is our only goal.
“We have played against all of our pool opponents before, so they are not strangers to us. I believe Ireland, Tonga and France are the likely semi-finalists, but we have analysed all of our opponents and have a good game plan,” added the 33-year old winger.
“We are ready and I am ready; I will leave nothing on the pitch, because it’s likely my last shot at qualifying for an Olympic Games, so I am very focused on this moment,” added the faithful servant of Hong Kong rugby.
Hong Kong, China Men’s Sevens Squad: Olympic Repechage (June 19-20, Monaco)
Max WOODWARD (captain); Raef MORRISON; Michael COVERDALE; Ale NARDONI; Cado LEE Ka-to; Jamie HOOD; Alex McQUEEN; Tom McQUEEN; Liam HERBERT; Russell WEBB; Max DENMARK; YIU Kam-shing; James CHRISTIE.