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Mendez: Chile sevens camp an invaluable experience
T&T’s preparation for the upcoming Hong Kong Sevens and qualification phase for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil gained momentum when a 14-player and four-member technical staff visited Chile for a one-week training camp.
The event took place from February 12-17 with T&T, the reigning Caribbean title holder at the Nacra Sevens Championship, training and competing among South America’s best in Peru, Argentina and Chile.
T&T head coach Larry Mendez was assured that the event served its purpose for the Calypso Warriors who have serious ambitions of qualifying for the first ever rugby sevens championship at the Olympic Games.
“It certainly did (serve its purpose) as the opportunity for the T&T players to compete against Argentina, Peru and Chile was invaluable. It’s important to see who steps up, who is willing to work hard, who is fearless under pressure that comes with playing against the likes of Argentina,” said Mendez upon the team’s return.
A full-strength squad made itself available to the trip to Chile, which was provided for by the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT) and the Chile Olympic Committee (COC). The invitation for T&T’s participation, according to Mendez came as a result of discussions between the COC and the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC), both of which have began to engage in an exchange programme. SporTT was responsible for T&T’s airfare, while the Chilean Olympic authorities paid for accommodation, meals and ground transport.
A mostly experienced T&T team, which included a few promising young players, particularly Agboola Silverthorn, comprised Graeme Alkins, James Phillip, Kelson Figaro, Rowell Gordon, Anthony Lopez, Jessie Richards, Joseph Quashie, Aasan Lewis, Shaquille Tull, David Gokool, Mark Roberts and Kurt Quashie. The technical staff included Mendez, Dale Trotman (assistant coach), Kimba London (physiotherapist) and Derek Ashby-Williams (trainer/therapist).
Only 12 players will be successful in earning a final spot for the Hong Kong Sevens. T&T, along with Barbados, will make its debut in the World Series qualifying segment. The tournament runs from March 28-30. T&T qualified following its third place finish at the Nacra Championship in the Cayman Islands, last year.
Speaking on T&T’s chances of success at the event Mendez said, “We are in a tough group with Japan, Cook Islands and Uruguay. Our intention is to prepare the players as best as we can physically, technically and mentally.
“My priority at this time is to focus and build player confidence and trust in the process of player development as we make the demanding and difficult transition to world class and Olympic level rugby sevens... Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Mendez advised that the team was in the first phase of the high performance unit programme, initiated by SporTT.
“The National team specifically trains three days per week. The strength and conditioning training with SporTT’s high performance unit is five days a week. The players are required to train with their clubs twice a week. It’s a very demanding schedule for the players, added to their job and family responsibilities.”
He said: “Building the technical, tactical, superior fitness, strength and conditioning, mental capacity, experience, skill set and game management of the local players is a critical success factor on the road to qualify for Rio Olympics.”
Other commitments of the national rugby sevens team include the Commonwealth Games, the CAC Games and the Pan American Games qualifiers. Mendez said the goal is for T&T to finish within the top eight team at the Commonwealth Games, to win the gold medal at the CAC Games, retain the Caribbean Sevens title and qualify for the 2015 Pan American Games.