HSBC Sydney Sevens ready for action
The world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge provided the backdrop as captains of the 28 men’s and women’s teams gathered ahead of the HSBC Sydney Sevens which kicks off on Friday, 27 January.
"The first time they called me was on a Friday," Gastón Revol begins from Sydney, where he is preparing for the HSBC Sydney Sevens. “They asked me if I had a valid passport and could travel to London and Edinburgh the next day.”
This was how his Los Pumas Sevens debut came in 2009 and when he runs on to the field of play this weekend in Sydney, he will tie Englishman James Rodwell's record by playing his 93rd tournament in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Years, tournaments, trips, experiences have passed, yet retirement has never reached.
“Crazy,” is his quick answer to his ride that has no expiration date yet.
At 36 years old, having learnt the game at La Tablada Rugby Club in Córdoba, Revol continues to defy time and remains very active in a team that enjoyed a great victory last Sunday at the HSBC New Zealand Sevens.
With little chance to celebrate and relax, it was time to travel to Auckland and from there to the new challenge waiting for the team in beautiful Sydney.
“Many people imagine that we are tourists all over the world and it is not real. We know stadiums and hotels around the world. We have very little time to visit cities, because we have other goals when travelling,” he explains.
He smiles as he says that other perceptions are that “we travel comfortably and earn a lot of money”.
Triumphs such as Hamilton, that of Vancouver last year, or the bronze medal at Tokyo 2020, are the engine that pushes not only Revol, but a team ably led by Santiago Gómez Cora.
Team-mates in London and Edinburgh back in 2009, it was almost like the transfer of the baton that in time would become what today is the core of this team.
When he retired in 2009, Gómez Cora was the record holder for Series tries, with 230. He and Revol would only cross paths again in 2013 when Gómez Cora returned to the team as head coach.
“As we began our focus on Tokyo, in 2019, Santi brought the senior players together and many issues were discussed. Today we are where we are because we put 100 per cent priority on sevens," Revol says.
"We only play sevens, we don't play for our clubs in order to be focused all year. That's why we fight, to get into the top eight, play in the semi-finals, win tournaments."
“The circuit is very competitive; this gives us a fighting chance."
Whilst playing in his third Rugby World Cup Sevens last September in Cape Town, he had an eye on his phone as the team made it to fifth place.
Luckily, Francina waited for her father's return to be born. Little does she know, at four months old, the many achievements of papá Gastón. She will find out in time.
“She changed my whole life, without changing what I do,” he says with a different tone in his voice. “I keep getting up to train, travel to Buenos Aires to meet with the team, I do the tours. Only now I have a daughter."
The key in all this is his wife, Maqui. “She has been behind me all the time – we met and I was already a sevens player and she is the first to support me, accepts the different challenges that I set myself year after year,” Revol says.
“Now, with Francina, she takes care of everything, she doubles the effort when I'm not around. Without her kind of support it is impossible to do what I do.”
Exactly how long Revol will continue playing sevens is something he cannot answer yet.
“After Rio 2016 I felt sevens was coming to an end; shortly after, I had the first serious talk with Santi. We set a deadline for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco," he admits.
"We then moved it one more year for the Pan American Games and the qualification for the Olympic Games. Then we were already approaching Tokyo…”
That talk is no longer repeated.
"The important thing is to be connected and see what we are feeling. Clearly, what we have experienced these years is an extreme energy fix, which makes you want to continue enjoying it. It would be crazy to leave it," he says.
“I am living tournament by tournament; although there is still a long way to go, my dream is to get to Paris.”
Come Paris 2024 Revol will be 37 years old. "There are already a few on the team who could be my children... They pull my leg about it."
There will not be a planned celebration when he equals Rodwell's Series tournament record, because the goal is to repeat what the team did in Hamilton.
“The record is not my goal. It's tempting to be the player with the most tournaments and truth is, it is no mean feat. But I always say that my sporting achievements are more for the people who love me and supported me."
He assures: “I do feel proud.”
“The challenge now for us in the team is mental; being able to turn the page, enjoy the post-tournament and start over. It is what we must do when things go wrong and when things go well," Revol adds.
“We must not settle for what we achieved. Sevens is quick, one passes and the next one comes. You relax and they walk all over you.”
The celebration that came after hearing Portuguese referee Paulo Duarte confirming “no try” to New Zealand’s last-gasp effort in the Cup final at FMG Stadium, brought many tears.
“The hug with Santi shows what we are made of. Two people who have been in this for a long time, and have been through a lot together. It is the relief when achieving something historical. When you fight so much for something, the first thing you want to do is share with those who are close.”
Since his first tournament, the changes in sevens have been enormous, in the world and in Argentina – structure, logistics, regulations, game plans, detail, physical preparation, player care.
Including London 2009, Revol played in 92 of 116 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments played since; add to that number South American Sevens, Pan American Games, three RWC Sevens and two Olympic Games and you are talking about someone special.
The rivals will have seen the dedication and commitment of Los Pumas Sevens, and Revol as a constant.
Hamilton arrived after the team’s first Series gold medal since 2009, when winning Vancouver last year. "That will always be very important because it was the first tournament we’d won in a long time," Revol says.
“When it seemed impossible to beat such an achievement, you beat Fiji and New Zealand at home in the final to win a tournament..."
To close, without leaving aside the dream of getting back on the podium quickly, he confirms his team’s goal for the season. "Definitely, to qualify for Paris 2024."
Photo: UAR / Gaspafoto