With the Youth Olympic Games in full flow in Buenos Aires and the 12 competing rugby sevens teams finalising preparations ahead of the start of the competition this weekend (13-15 October), World Rugby Vice-Chairman and YOG 2018 champion Agustín Pichot made a surprise visit to the Argentinian men’s and Colombian women’s training sessions on Sunday.
The former Argentina captain in both 15s and sevens, welcomed teams not only to the Youth Olympic Games but to his former club, Club Atlético San Isidro where the teams were training.
The young players were quick to take out their phones for selfies with the World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee, and a large number of volunteers at the training venue also got the opportunity to meet with Pichot.
Heavily involved in the return of rugby as an Olympic sport, Pichot was also a member of the Buenos Aires team that secured hosting rights for these Youth Olympic Games.
“We imagined something big, but now after the opening ceremony and seeing how much work was done and is being done, with the smiles of the volunteers, one starts to see that dream come true,” he said.
As a father of two teenage daughters, he is well positioned to analyse what these Games mean.
“The goal has to be for players to have fun and enjoy it, never losing the focus that they are representing their countries and their clubs. They must compete with responsibility and dignity.
“Nowadays, for the younger generations having fun can be misinterpreted. Having fun is enjoying a training session, a game, giving your all to win. Once that is finished, enjoy the after match spirit with your opponents and soon after find a new goal, the next challenge.”
Twelve teams – six men's and six women's – will compete in Buenos Aires. Canada, Colombia, France, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and Tunisia will compete for the women’s competition, while Argentina, France, Japan, Samoa, South Africa and USA make up the men’s tournament. In total, 144 players aged 16-18 will compete at the highest youth level.
Pichot said: “Youth Olympic Games is high performance; you can see that by looking at the players, their sizes and in the knowledge that most them being students are deciding on their future. For World Rugby, the Games are an important part of the player development pathway. It is up to the players what comes next.”
Rugby and the Olympics share an ethos which Pichot supports. “The legacy is very clear, not only in facilities, but you can see how motivated the players are. Whether they win or lose, this is already a big success.”
Argentina captain Juan González was delighted to have heard the words of support from Pichot. “We all watched him on video and now having him come to talk to us was very emotional; I was almost in tears. His message was very positive.”
Colombia coach David Jaramillo was also happy to have had his team meet Pichot. “The players were delighted and he spoke very highly of the work being done in Colombia. The buzz around the team after he spent some time with us was great.”
Olympic inclusion has had a profound effect on rugby sevens, following the sport’s successful introduction recent Nielsen research has estimated that the rugby sevens fan-base grew by more than 30 million as a result, expanding international reach, with emerging markets such as USA, China, India and Brazil showing substantial growth.
For more information on the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, visit www.buenosaires2018.com. All rugby sevens competition sessions will be live streamed on World Rugby website and social media platforms.