Colombian rugby has emulated New Zealand’s double-double at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 by winning back-to-back gold medals in both the men's and women's competitions at the CACSO Games in Barranquilla.
The Colombian women were largely dominant, scoring 139 points in their six games and only conceding 24 in reply, but they did get a big scare against French Guyana, a game they could only draw 5-5.
With the score hanging by a thread, Nicole Acevedo pulled off a try-saving tackle to deny French Guyana a famous win, repeating her heroics from 2015 when her timely intervention earned Colombia victory over Argentina and a place at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
They were superbly led on and off the field by another Olympian, Camila Lopera, while the form of the quartet of players who will represent their country at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in October points to an exciting future for the team.
As the only unbeaten team in the six-team tournament, Colombia went into the final against Venezuela confident of repeating their 19-12 win over the same opponents from the qualifying stages, and they turned on the style, scoring four unanswered tries against their neighbours for a much-celebrated 20-0 win.
Mexico, who made their Rugby World Cup Sevens debut in San Francisco a fortnight ago, took the bronze medal with their only defeats across the two days coming against the top two.
Staying on top
In the men’s competition, Colombia found the going tougher but in Andrés Álvarez they had an inspirational figure who was solid in both attack and defence, the playmaker scoring key tries and generating crucial turnovers.
Colombia started with a 19-12 win over Mexico in the opening match of the tournament before going on to beat Costa Rica 41-5. The opening day ended on a low note, however, as Guyana silenced the locals inside the cosy Estadio Moderno Julio Torres de Barranquilla stadium with a 14-12 win.
Day two began with a 24-0 win for the defending champions against Guatemala and their place in the final was assured when they saw off Jamaica 26-0. As was the case in 2014, Colombia proved too strong for Mexico in the gold medal match, winning 21-14.
Jamaica defeated Trinidad & Tobago 26-5 in the third-place play-off, ensuring sprinter Warren Weir had a bronze medal in rugby sevens to go with the one he won at the 200 metres at London 2012.
Andrés Jaramillo, coach for both the men's and women's teams, was understandably delighted at the outcome.
“It is very important for us because we know how hard it is to reach the top but we worked hard to stay there,” he said.
“It is important that the road we are taking is the right one and pay back with wins the huge support we have from World Rugby, Sudamérica Rugby and sporting institutes in my country.”
Colombian rugby will have, once the celebrations finish, the legacy of an artificial pitch and stadium, probably the best in the country, to assist them in the growth of the game.
Photo credit: Juan David Armesto Photography