On Tuesday, Daniel and Felipe Sancery were still on cloud nine. They had just come back from a meeting with the Brazilian government and president, along with a hundred fellow Olympians who will wear the country's green and yellow at the Games.
“We visited the Palace, we took photos, we got some selfies with the president, it was so cool,” said Daniel (pictured).
Relaxed but in high spirits and totally uninhibited about the challenges that will confront them in the coming weeks, Daniel admits that the enormity of what he is about to experience in a few weeks’ time hasn’t hit him yet.
“We know that something incredible is about to happen, that it will be huge,” admits the 22-year-old, as he took time out from Brazil's preparations for a daunting opening game against the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions Fiji.
“It won’t be easy at all because we know our level and theirs, but each point earned, each tackle made, each try scored, it will be a victory for us. We represent our country, we are there to play and give it our all.”
The twins were informed of their Olympic Games call-up at the end of an intensive three-week training camp. Six months ago, when they decided to leave French Pro D2 outfit Albi, they had no idea that they would climb to such a level.
“It was an opportunity, it was a 50:50 chance,” admitted Daniel. “With Albi, we played on hope, but we felt that it was somewhat of a closed shop. So we sent our CV off to Brazil and we were given this opportunity. To play sevens and 15s, it was a risk worth taking. We thought, if it doesn’t work out, we can always go back to France.”
Upon their arrival in Brazil, Daniel and Felipe quickly integrated into the Brazilian national 15s team and made a favourable impression during the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship. Daniel scored a try in each of the first four games, including one in Os Tupis' famous win over the USA, while fellow back Felipe crossed the line on three occasions.
Shortly after, the twins were called into the Brazil sevens squad for the Vancouver round of series, and made their debuts alongside each other in a 35-5 defeat to Argentina. They played together again at the world series qualifying tournament in Hong Kong as well as in the season finale in London. Felipe also played in the penultimate round in Paris.
“We integrated very quickly into the team and into the organisation and quickly got up to speed with the demands of the game,” explained Daniel.
Standing 1.82m tall, above average for a Brazilian rugby player, the Sancery twins are doing their very best to help raise rugby's profile in the country’s sporting consciousness.
With rugby coming to Rio though, the signs of growth are already evident, Os Tupis attracting 7,000-strong gates for the home internationals against Chile and Uruguay back in April.
“In Brazil the national sporting fan base is 90 per cent football followed in popularity by swimming and volleyball. Fifteens isn’t well known and rugby sevens, even less so. Rugby doesn’t figure in the Brazilian culture, but it is developing and it is starting to be shown on national TV channels,” said Daniel.
Beyond Rio, the twins have their hearts set on representing the Argentine Super Rugby outfit Los Jaguares.
“When will this dream stop? As long as there are opportunities, we will continue!” exclaimed David. “Felipe and I have always said that our lives changed in the space of six months. The journey won’t stop here."
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