Rugby Sevens completes first Olympic test

NANJING, China - The U.S. Men's and Women's Rugby Sevens teams helped inaugurate Rugby Sevens into the Olympic Games program Aug. 17-20 at the Nanjing 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games.

While neither team will return home with a medal, the spectacle of the game of rugby on the largest international scene will help the sport grow as it looks ahead to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

"It's a great competition," International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told the IRB. "You can see how dynamic and fascinating Rugby Sevens can be and is, and we are looking forward to a great tournament in Rio.

"It is always critical to get it right at a big event like the Youth Olympic Games or Olympic Games."

International Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission Vice Chair and four-time U.S. ice hockey gold medalist Angela Ruggiero paid a visit to the women's team during its jersey ceremony and passed on wisdom only an Olympic medalist could.

"If you get through the next few days and you rely on each other and you're successful, you guys will know each other for the rest of your lives because you'll have shared such a special moment and such a unique experience that you'll never forget," she told the players. "So make sure you believe in yourselves first."

"It was very inspiring to get to meet Angela, to talk to her about her Olympic experiences and her career as a woman in a team sport," Tess Feury told the USOC. "That was really cool. She was really helpful in helping us start to mentally prepare for our matches and giving us advice on how to compete in this high-intensity environment."

Richie Walker's team began its podium campaign against Spain, a match that ended in a 12-12 draw. The teams kicked off at Youth Olympic Sports Park Rugby Field just one hour after the first Rugby Sevens match of an Olympic Games, contested between Australia and Tunisia.

Down 19-0 in the second half against Canada, the women's team scored 14 unanswered points in the final four minutes but still fell short of a win.

The men's team held a 12-10 half-time lead in its opening match against Kenya Aug. 17, but the African side shut out Ben Gollings' team in the second half to secure a 22-12 victory.

Three more losses to close out pool play Monday, Aug. 18, and Tuesday, Aug. 19, did not keep the women's team from missing out on the semifinals, but eventual gold-medalist Australia kept a 33-0 clean sheet against the U.S. Still, a bronze medal was up for grabs.

In the Bronze Medal Match Wednesday, the U.S. held China scoreless. In the teams' previous meeting in pool play, China started strong and took a 17-7 lead into halftime. With a medal on the line, the U.S. dug deep to keep China at bay, but the crowd favorite managed two tries in the second half to secure a 12-0 victory.

The men failed to reach the semifinals with five losses in pool play, but sought redemption on Japan in the fifth-place match Tuesday. The U.S. came out of the gates flying, scoring the match's first try through Suwaiter Poch after just 25 seconds. Hanco Germishuys' try in the third minute and Aaron Matthews' try in the fifth minute gave the U.S. a 17-7 lead at the half.

Junior Helu, who also took the conversion kicks for the U.S., and Germishuys added second-half tries to secure the 29-12 win and fifth-place finish in Nanjing.

Australia and France captured gold in the women's and men's competition, respectively, while the Canadian women's team replicated the senior side's result at the IRB Women's Rugby World Cup 2014: a second-place finish.

Rugby Sevens left a mark on the Second Youth Olympic Games, which continues until the Closing Ceremony at Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre.

"I saw rugby sevens for the first time, which is really fun to watch," USOC Chairman and IOC member Larry Probst told teamusa.org. "I think that's going to be a great sport to watch during the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. I think Americans will have a blast watching Rugby Sevens on the NBC broadcast."

U.S. Youth Olympic Games Women's Rugby Sevens Team

Name Height Weight (lbs) Age (as of 7 July 2014) Hometown
Tess Feury 5'6" 140 18 Denville, NJ
Haley Langan 6'0" 165 18 South Burlington, VT
Appau Mailau 5'7" 162 17 Salt Lake City, UT
Michel Navarro 5'5" 147 17 Fallbrook, CA
Dana Olsen 5'3" 128 18 Fort Collins, CO
Tiffany Person 5'8" 135 17 Alexandria, VA
Emily Prentice 5'7" 135 16 Kent, WA
Kat Ramage 5'4" 146 17 Ledgewood, NJ
Becca Jane Rosko 5'3" 117 16 Dillon, CO
Richelle Stephens 5'7" 135 17 Fallbrook, CA
Danielle Walko-Siua 5'0" 125 18 Hilo, HI
Whitney Wilson 5'4" 127 17 Kingwood, TX

U.S. Youth Olympic Games Men's Rugby Sevens Team

Name Height Weight (lbs) Age (as of 7 July 2014) Hometown
Cian Barry 5'8" 151 18 Point Lookout, NY
Hanco Germishuys 6'1" 215 17 Omaha, NE
Brian Hannon 5'10" 180 17 Indianapolis, IN
Junior Helu 6'0" 200 18 Union City, CA
Vili Helu 6'4" 233 18 San Ramon, CA
Sione Masoe 6'0" 185 18 Garden Grove, CA
Aaron Matthews 5'9" 185 17 Irvine, CA
Malcolm May 6'1" 215 18 Chicago, IL
Suwaiter Poch 6'0" 225 17 Hilo, HI
Tyler Sousley 5'1" 190 18 Osceola, IN
Austin Taefu 5'7" 161 17 Phoenix, AZ
Jojo Tikoisuva 5'11" 176 18 Sacramento, CA