Abbotsford’s Justin Douglas was named to the 12-man Rugby Sevens squad selected to represent Canada at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Douglas, in a recent interview with The News, said he was feeling great, having been injured for a good part of the year with a cracked vertebrae and nagging ankle issue.
“I am excited about the opportunity. We have a good shot to get gold,” said Douglas.
Standing in the way of that top podium position though is the U.S., which downed Canada, 21-5, in the finals of the NACRA Sevens Olympic qualifying tournament last month.
The men’s rugby sevens event will run July 11-12, and will feature, in addition to Canada, squads from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guyana, Mexico, Uruguay, and the U.S.
The men’s team arrived in Toronto Monday morning and got settled in with a walk around the athletes’ village situated on Toronto’s West Don Lands, built to accommodate the 10,000 or so athletes expected at the Games.
Douglas and about 20 other players who are a part of Rugby Canada’s centralization plan — a high-development program that works to keep selected athletes together and training — have been working out in Langford, B.C. in preparation for the Games and ultimately the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
It will be the first time rugby sevens will be featured as an event at the Olympics. The sport, in any form, has not been played at the Summer Olympics since 1924 when union style rugby was an event.
“We train [in Langford] all year,” said Douglas. “We’re a very close group.”
Douglas was first named to the Canadian senior men’s rugby sevens team in 2013 – then the youngest player on the squad at 19.
In October 2012, he was named to the team for the Gold Coast Sevens, the first event of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens World Series and has cracked the roster for other World Series events, earning trips to Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan and England, but said he relishes the opportunity to play in Toronto, in front of the home crowd.
Canada’s opening match is against Guyana, on July 11 at BMO Field, renamed Exhibition Stadium for the Games. The match begins at 12:17 p.m.