Olympics: Lesson from 1924's band of brothers

Fri, 05 Aug 2016 13:25

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Punches and kicks raining down on the pitch, rioting fans and dressing room theft.

The last Olympic rugby gold, in 1924, is a story of a match won by an American band of brothers that went on to become a sour diplomatic incident.

The United States team contesting the Olympic Sevens tournament in Rio will be hoping to avoid the cheap shots faced by their gold medal-winning counterparts 92 years ago - albeit drawing strength from a game that has gone down in sporting folklore as one of the bloodiest and nastiest ever played.

The Americans ran out convincing 17-3 winners over the French, who could easily have been reduced to 11 men were it not for US captain Babe Slater.

At Paris' Stade Colombes, under the eye of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics and proponent of sportsmanship, Slater resisted Welsh referee Albert Freethy's demands that three French players be sent off for blatant foul play, one having already been given a straight dismissal.

Off the field in sultry conditions, American students in the stands were targeted for violent abuse by a restless French public - incensed by a tough-tackling US team, who later found their dressing room had also been ransacked following the shock result.

Danny Barrett, skipper of the US team in Rio, said his squad could use the experiences of that 1924 team to their advantage when their tournament gets under way on Tuesday.

"We know it was a couple of physical games," Barrett said.

"It was definitely a lot more physical than it was these days.

"The big part about it is that it's a group of guys who came together who were enemies at one point on the field and that's how we all were," he said of his current teammates.

"I played against Madison [Hughes] a few times, I played against Nate [Ebner] a few times. I played with Carlin [Isles] before coming to the national team. It's about a group of guys who came together and got the job done."

Barrett added: "For us that's our goal. That's what the boys back in the 1920s did. So just being able to be here with them and get that job done is what we relish."

Playmaker Hughes said he had read books on the 1924 team that won gold against all expectation.

"It was a group of guys coming together against the odds," he said.

"They toured England before the 1924 Olympics. The English said: 'You've got no chance at all, the French are going to kill you'.

"And I think the French did try to kill them. But they hung in there against the odds and got the job done.

"It really was against the odds. Because even then rugby wasn't a huge sport in the US. It was a lot of guys who hadn't played a whole lot of rugby, quite a few who hadn't played at all or were performing in other events in the Olympics."

Agence France-Presse

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Pool 00
Team P W D L Pts
Brazil 7s 0 0 0 0 1
Korea Sevens 0 0 0 0 10
Pool 19
Team P W D L Pts
England Sevens 0 0 0 0 19
Pool A
Team P W D L Pts
Fiji Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Canada Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Pool B
Team P W D L Pts
New Zealand Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Australia Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
France Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Japan Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Pool C
Team P W D L Pts
Argentina Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
United States Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Russia Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Pool D
Team P W D L Pts
South Africa Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Kenya Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Portugal Sevens 0 0 0 0 0
Team P W D L Pts
Wales Sevens
Zimbabwe 7s