Hughes to captain USA in Rio
NEWS: Top Sevens Series scorer Madison Hughes has the privilege of leading Unites States of America at the Olympics in Rio.
USA Rugby Sevens coach Mike Friday's diverse 12-man sqaud includes athletes from across the country, international rugby stars and an NFL Super Bowl Champion.
Hughes, a graduate of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, also finished as the top-scorer in the 2015/16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Hughes is joined by veterans Zack Test, Folau Niua, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender and Maka Unufe on the roster. All five were regular faces for the USA throughout the 2015/16 season.
Friday’s squad also includes the dynamic pairing of Perry Baker and Carlin Isles. Isles has been dubbed 'the fastest man in rugby' due to a 100-meter speed that could have qualified him for the Olympics in track and field. While Baker, thanks to his own scorching speed, finished the 2015/16 Sevens Series in the top-five in scoring and second in tries scored.
Familiar faces Andrew Durutalo and Chris Wyles have also been included. Neither Durutalo or Wyles participated in the 2015/16 season, instead playing professionally for clubs in Japan and England, respectively. This past season, Wyles achieved both an England Premiership League championship and European Cup championship double.
New England Patriot Nate Ebner joins Team USA after receiving his team’s blessing to make a run at an Olympic dream. Ebner was the youngest-ever player to represent the Sevens at age 17, continuing his rugby career at Ohio State University before joining the football team and subsequently being drafted into the NFL.
The youngest member of the team, 22-year-old Ben Pinkelman of Colorado, has progressed through the USA Rugby High Performance ranks and will build off of his career 36 games played.
"It's a huge honor to represent your country at any time in your life, but to be given the responsibility at the Olympic Games - the biggest sporting event on the planet - makes it even more special,” said Friday.
"The fact that we will be part of Team USA and that as a result we will be exposing the USA sporting public to another team sport they can engage with and enjoy watching, as well as passionately support their country, is immense,"
When asked about his team’s makeup, Friday responded: "The squad itself represents the country on so many levels and is cosmopolitan in makeup, which is a true reflection of the country.
"The team is balanced in terms of physicality, power, X-factor and out-and-out pace. We possess great aerial presence and kickers who are able to exploit these skills. As along with the contact area, we see this as a huge area in the game,"
Team USA will continue to train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista before heading to Florida for a week of training. During the weeklong training session that includes scrimmages against New Zealand, Team USA will determine their three travelling reserves within the group of Nate Augspurger, Will Holder, Martin Iosefo, Thretton Palamo and Shalom Suniula.
United States of America Sevens: Madison Hughes, Zack Test, Folau Niua, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender, Maka Unufe, Perry Baker, Carlin Isles, Andrew Durutalo, Chris Wyles, Nate Ebner, Ben Pinkelman.