It's now or never

Sports | 3 Jun 2021

Salom Yiu Kam-shing is not letting the Covid-19 pandemic ruin what - for him and fellow veterans on the Hong Kong rugby sevens team - could be their "last and best shot" at getting to the Olympics.

Yiu, 33, is among the 13 players named by head coach Paul John for his traveling squad for this month's repechage in Monaco, where Hong Kong will contest the last available spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

Captain Max Woodward, James Hood, Alex and Tom McQueen, Michael Coverdale, Cado Lee Ka-to, Russell Webb and Raef Morrison are the other veteran campaigners in the squad. They are joined by younger players Max Denmark, Liam Herbert, James Christie and Alessandro Nardoni.

The squad will be culled to its final 12 before the June 19-20 event kicks off.

"We are very excited and hungry," said Yiu, Hong Kong's most-capped player. "For some of us, this is our last and best shot of going to the Olympics, so we have been treasuring every training opportunity and making sure we are ready both as a team and as individuals."

Hong Kong missed out on an Olympic spot during Asian qualifying and now face a tougher path to Tokyo, but that doesn't seem to faze Yiu and the team.

Yiu believes the team has not been put off its stride by the lack of international competition in the past year and half due to lockdowns and travel restrictions resulting from the pandemic.

"Our preparation has been smooth," the winger insisted.

To make up for the lack of tours or overseas training, Hong Kong ran an intra-team mini tournament that tried to replicate the format and atmosphere awaiting them in Monaco, Yiu added.

Hong Kong are the second seeds in Pool B behind HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series regulars France.

Chile, Uganda and Jamaica are the other teams in the group.

Two-time Rugby World Cup Sevens bronze medallists Samoa are the top seeds in Pool A, joined by Ireland, Tonga, Zimbabwe and Mexico.

"Typically, we would be involved in a lot of competitions throughout the year, but now the repechage is our only goal," Yiu said.

"We have played against all of our pool opponents before, so they are not strangers to us.

"I believe Ireland, Tonga and France are the likely semi-finalists, but we have analyzed all of our opponents and have a good game plan.

"We are ready and I am ready. I will leave nothing on the pitch, because it's likely my last shot at qualifying for an Olympic Games, so I am very focused on this moment."

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July 2021

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