After securing Canada’s second consecutive Pan Am Games rugby sevens title last week, Abbotsford’s Justin Douglas returned home with his brand new medal.
“Just being in Canada and winning the gold medal was something really special,” Douglas told The News, as he sported his red Team Canada jacket.
“It was unbelievable. Anywhere we were in Toronto … people were coming up and congratulating us.”
Canada narrowly defeated Argentina in the gold medal contest 22-19 after a last-second try from Harry Jones pushed the men ahead.
“There’s a real sense of belief in this team. We knew we had a good opportunity to win,” said Douglas, regarding those final minutes.
The 21-year-old credited Argentina as the most difficult opponent faced.
“The physicality they bring and just the overall relentlessness from them. They just don’t give up, in every tackle they’re out there in your face.”
Douglas, who notched tries in the preliminary games against Brazil and Argentina, said he was taken by the atmosphere.
“The stadium was nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve been in big crowds, big stadiums, but never anything purely from a Canadian fan base,” Douglas said.
The last sevens tournament Douglas was in that was in Canada was when he was still in Grade 11, attending Robert Bateman. The local rugby star also has a history of playing in multi-sport events, a résumé that stretches back to the 1998 BC Summer Games held in Ridge-Meadows.
As Kelly Mann, CEO of BC Games Society, said, “The strength of the provincial sport system is evident as we see the progression of athletes towards events like the Pan American Games.” Douglas’ triumphs certainly exhibit such a trajectory.
“This tournament was big for us,” said Douglas. “We needed a win just to finish the season on a high.”
The Canadians were coming off a disappointing loss to the U.S. last month in the finals of the NACRA Sevens Olympic qualifying tournament.
Though Douglas wouldn’t call it redemption, Canada did manage to avenge that defeat by downing the Americans in the semi-finals to get to the gold medal game.
The Canadian men’s team is currently on a three-week break, with their first World Rugby Sevens Series tournament happening in December, in Dubai.
Douglas said the team’s focus is on the 2016 Rio Olympics as Canada has yet to qualify.
“Every team is building for Olympics, everyone’s getting faster, stronger, bigger,” said Douglas.
The Canadian men’s rugby sevens team returns to preseason action in August.