Colombia are the latest nation to reveal the 12 women’s players who will create history as the first rugby sevens Olympians at Rio 2016.
Alejandra Betancur will captain the side coached by Laurent Palau and his assistant, men’s international José Manuel Diosa, with Solangie Delgado her vice-captain for the 6-8 August event.
The squad also features veteran Guadalupe López, who scored the last-gasp try against favourites Argentina in the South American regional qualifier final in June 2015 which secured their place at Rio 2106.
There are nine players in the squad from Medellín, the country’s rugby hotbed, two from capital city Bogotá and Katherinne Medina, from the northern region of La Guajira, who will become the first sportsperson from that area to go to an Olympic Games.
"Our main goal is to finish ninth and in doing so securing a core place in next season’s World Sevens Series."
The impact Olympic qualification has had on Colombian rugby is huge with Andrés Gómez, the Federarción Colombiana de Rugby President, describing it as “a motor for the development and growth of women’s rugby in the country.”
Enjoyment and clear target
“We have had huge support from the Colombian Ministry of Sport, other government offices, the local Olympic Committee and, of course, World Rugby,” Gómez added.
The growth in playing numbers is already a success story, with girls aged 15 and 16 already being identified for the next Olympic Games cycle with sevens on the programme for Tokyo 2020.
Resources have also been made available for a full-time coaching staff, including strength and conditioning, payment for the Olympic players, and with the assistance of World Rugby, former USA sevens coach Al Caravelli attended three training camps in Colombia.
Colombia made their HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series debut in Atlanta in April – facing both Australia and Fiji in the pools then also – and have set their target of a top-nine finish in Rio.
“Our main goal is to enjoy the experience of being in an Olympic Games,” explained Diosa.
“On the field, we have a very tough pool and we want to have good performances against USA and Fiji. After that, hopefully, we’ll be playing against Japan and Kenya and if we are focused and at our best, we could beat them and avoid coming last.
“Our main goal is to finish ninth and in doing so securing a core place in next season’s World Sevens Series.”
Colombia squad: Alejandra Betancur (captain), Solangie Delgado, María Camila Lopera Valle, Katherinne Medina, Nicole Avecedo, Sharon Acevedo, Guadalupe López, Estefanía Ramírez, Isabel Cristina Romero Benítez, Laura González, Laura García, Ana Ramírez.