Gastón Revol is synonymous with rugby sevens. Ready to play in his 100th tournament this Saturday and Sunday at HSBC SVNS Cape Town, the historic leader of Los Pumas Sevens clearly enjoys the place he has earned with work, perseverance, hunger and by dreaming.
From a surprising debut in 2009 to this present that has him dreaming of closing his career at Olympic Games Paris 2024, the career of the Córdoba native is also the journey of an Argentine team that has modified its DNA to become one of the most feared in the renewed HSBC SVNS 2024.
“It was tough at the beginning of my career,” he says from Cape Town, getting ready for what is his favourite tournament on the series. “But in those early days we always found a way to have a good time.”
That beginning arrived with a call asking if he had a valid passport to travel, 48 hours later, to London and Edinburgh. He made his debut at Twickenham, coming on late against Portugal. “As hooker,” he laughs.
He came to sevens after a great performance in the country's old provincial championship, but after that tour, he was not called up again in 2009-10, which was the last season for his team-mate in those first two tournaments, and now his coach, Santiago Gómez Cora.
After showing he was ready in a tournament in Kenya, he returned to the circuit in Dubai in 2010 and has since played another 97 events to overtake James Rodwell's previous tournament record (93) and sit on the verge of an unprecedented century.
Since his debut in 2009, 115 series tournaments have been played. That he missed only 16 is a huge achievement. Being an integral part of Los Pumas Sevens' path to this day, Revol opens up.
“It is a construction mainly thanks to Santi (Gómez Cora); since he took charge of the team in 2013, he had many fights and convinced that a change was needed," Revol said. "Starting with him, there are a lot of people who perhaps are not here anymore who accompanied and worked hard and left their legacy during this process.
“I am extremely lucky to enjoy what is happening today after what we went through.
“Everything was a learning experience so that we became what we are now. We tried things until we found what helped us and allowed us to grow. With the support of the Argentine Rugby Union and other institutions.
"The structure and experience has generated a perfect balance, which is shown by good results, although more important is that performances are a reflection of this.”
Players have made huge commitments: stopping playing 15s probably the biggest. Revol last played for his beloved La Tablada, a club the five Revol brothers have played for, in 2018.
“Stopping playing was a sacrifice, but it was the only way to be competitive in the series," he explained. "We all continue to help in our clubs.”
Revol always returns to his club, ready to help with whatever is asked of him. The rest of the Los Pumas Sevens squad are similarly committed since the club roots are so strong that they are never lost.
Revol, with 99 Series tournaments under his belt, was a key part of the team’s growth.
“I really appreciate it; I would never have imagined it. Four, five years ago I thought I would never win a medal, and now I enjoy playing finals,” he said.
For someone with such an extensive career, the mental aspect has been key. Goal setting is a must.
“There was always a carrot ahead,” he explained. “After Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in 2013, I set my goal to go to the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015. Then the Rio Olympics the following year. Then RWC Sevens in San Francisco, and so on.”
Not advancing to the semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro was a huge emotional blow and close to turning 30, there was the possibility that it would be his last tournament.
But, he said: “[I was] always talking about the future with Santi, we were working on upcoming goals.”
"The soul of the team"
Today, at 37, his goal is very clear: Paris 2024.
He fully acknowledges that the way to get there is through the series, which in turn would mean adding more tournaments to the 100th that will arrive on Saturday.
“One hundred is a number that even surprises me, but it is still a number. I am still very grateful to be enjoying the team, after what we went through many years ago, after being so many times close to retiring or leaving the team," Revol said.
"After feeling Santi's support, and being able to continue making my contribution no matter what size it may be. I am very grateful.”
Gómez Cora, one of the great personalities of world sevens, recognises Revol as a great leader.
“Gastón is on the team fundamentally because of his play, but his most outstanding characteristic is the head he has," Gómez Cora said.
"He makes up for some of his physical shortcomings with his good game, with his kicking talent and his constant dedication.
“He is the soul of the team; he builds the group, is the spirit. As we say, a team without soul and heart will not go far. So, Gastón is in charge of putting his all into play, that winning mentality and being the soul that unites everyone. That's why we value him so much.”
Revol knows Gómez Cora well and is extremely thankful.
“In recent times, I have tried to give space, a place and prominence to the boys who are in the leadership group. I feel that my role is to accompany them rather than lead them. If necessary, I make a contribution,” he said.
“I feel like a soldier, with what I represent, but helping them lead the way for the new generation.”
As he already said: “Paris is the goal, going step by step, thinking about the next tournament. But today, the goal is Cape Town.
“In the long term, the dream is being on the team and if I go I would do everything possible to ensure that as many family members as possible are there.”
His wife Maqui, his 14-month-old daughter Francina, his parents and his wife’s family recently accompanied him to the Pan American Games in Chile. “Family and friends are essential."
In fact, they are the ones who receive all the gear he has been getting over the years.
“It gives me pleasure to give it to those who enjoy it and receive it with joy,” Revol said.
At 37 years old, he has few opportunities left to continue stretching the record, of playing at the highest level.
“After Paris there is no more sevens. It's over. I hope that sport gives me that last dream, I am going to do everything I can to achieve it,” he commented.
“After so much time you understand so much about the game, that coaching is something I won’t rule out for the next stage.”
But he makes his priorities very clear.
“For now, things are going well here, in Cape Town, and what comes next in the road to Paris.”