On July 26, Lucas Hammond will try not to be overcome by the moment when he sets foot on the Olympic rugby pitch for the first time.
It’ll be what he’s been working towards after nearly a decade on Canada’s sevens team, and a realization of his lifelong dream.
“I think it’s going to be very emotional,” Hammond said.
He’ll appreciate that moment, he told Black Press Media, but quickly rid that thought and be solely focused on the game ahead.
His Olympic debut is special in several ways. He’s been immersed in the sport since he was young. After being born to two Canadian missionaries in South Africa, Hammond started playing rugby at the age of seven. When his family moved to Toronto from his hometown of Vryheid, in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, he kept playing until he eventually moved to Victoria in his late teens to play with the national team.
“I love playing rugby, I’ve always loved it and doing it with the Canadian flag on your jersey makes it even more special,” the scrum-half said.
“Any chance I get to do that is a huge honour and what bigger honour than doing it at the Olympics.”
But he’s been deprived of the game he loves for much of that last three years. The Canadian team qualified for Tokyo while Hammond was in the middle of being sidelined for two years with a foot ligament injury. He returned to competition in early 2020, just months before the pandemic stole another year of play from him.
But those few return matches were still enough to know he was back.
“Knowing I was out there and helping the team,” Hammond said, “that gave me all the confidence that my injury is in the past.”
After missing the 2016 Summer Games, the Olympics has long been in the sevens team’s heads. Despite the little competition, they’re confident heading into the Games.
“We could have a lot of excuses for this year, but I think everyone is just focused on getting there and giving our best performance possible.”
The rugby team’s waning number of training days left are dialled in on the specifics. They’re working out in a heat tent to acclimatize themselves to Tokyo temperatures and pulling some all-nighters to get their bodies running on Japan time. It’s those little details that will hopefully make a difference.
For now, the team isn’t looking past the immediate challenge of their Olympic pool’s three strong competitors in Fiji, Great Britain and Japan.
“We all have the belief that if we play our game, we can compete with anyone out there.”
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