Canadian women proving an Olympic 7s medal is an expectation, not a goal
Ghislaine Landry's team captures 3rd medal in as many World Series events
Canada sent out a cheery Christmas message. It has now dispatched a clear New Year's warning.
We have entered an Olympic year. In six months time, podiums will be filled with joyous athletes in Tokyo. The Canadian women's rugby sevens team has served notice.
An Olympic medal in Japan is no longer a dream. It is becoming an expectation.
For the first time since 2017, the Canadians are demonstrating real consistency. The silver medal at the New Zealand Sevens is the first time in nearly three years this team has medalled at three consecutive tournaments.
WATCH | Canada vs. New Zealand women's gold-medal final:
The podium finishes in Dubai and Cape Town at the back end of 2019 were reason enough for encouragement. A second final in three events provides clear evidence this team is well prepared and stepping up its game in timely fashion.
Canada is likely sick of the sight of New Zealand. Its hopes of a World Series gold medal were ended by the Black Ferns for the third time this season. There is no question New Zealand is the cream of the crop and it remains to be seen whether it is beatable either in the World Series or at the Olympics.
Nonetheless, Canada is riding a wave of confidence. It is a positive culture of its own making. The Canadians, led by their indomitable captain Ghislaine Landry, have learned how to get the job done. They go about their business with stamina, determination and efficiency.
There is always room for improvement. The field of quality contenders is getting ever deeper. There are at least five nations who consider themselves legitimate Olympic medal prospects. New Zealand, Australia, USA and France are all capable of making the podium, so Canada must keep its foot to the floor.
WATCH | Canada vs. Australia women's semifinal:
A change of format sharpened the focus from the get go. Eliminating the quarter finals placed greater emphasis on the pool stages. Only the group winners and a second placed pool runner up advanced straight to the semi finals.
Errors in the preliminaries were therefore at a premium. The Americans were the first to fall victim. While Canada held its nerve to hold off the French in its pool finale, the USA couldn't contain Australia's hat-trick hero Elia Green and had to be content with a minor placing.
Resilience is a vital ingredient of any team. Canada showed it in spades in its semi final against the Australians, coming from behind 3 times to outlast its opponent and finish strongly with late tries from Charity Williams and Landry who boasted a season's best 43 points.
This is all positive reinforcement. It is tangible confirmation that the tactical and technical organization is working well. It is not perfect but there is a solid foundation and Canada will move on to Sydney next week in buoyant mood.
Canadian men notch season-best
The Canadian men's team will also take away positives from its performance in New Zealand. A season high fifth place, featuring a dominant victory over the USA, is a welcome shot in the arm for Henry Paul's troops.
WATCH | Canada vs. USA in men's 5th-place match:
World Series rookie Theo Sauder again made an impression with an early try to set the tone against the Americans, following his breakout tournament in South Africa. Integrating emerging players into an experienced squad is never straightforward but Sauder is taking his chance and finding his feet.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, New Zealand completed a clean sweep of the gold medals on home soil. Yes, they really are that good.