It might not have been quite the fairytale ending for Team GB’s rugby sevens squad as they had to settle for silver at Rio 2016, but for Newcastle Falcons’ Marcus Watson, the Olympics will always be one of his career highlights.
The British squad only assembled 10 weeks ago to prepare for these Games, but they came together in spectacular fashion.
Sevens powerhouses New Zealand and South Africa were both beaten on their route to the final – as were Japan, Kenya and Argentina – but they came up against an inspired Fiji in the gold-medal match.
Nothing short of a meteor was going to stop the Pacific Island team – coached by Englishman Ben Ryan – from making their first-ever Olympic medal a gold as rugby made its return to the Games for the first time since 1924.
And while defeat was disappointing for Watson, who scored five tries in 15 Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances last season, there was plenty of consolation to be found in an historic silver medal.
“This is just an awesome feeling,” said the 25-year-old. “They [Fiji] are pretty much unstoppable to be quite honest with you.
“When the ball is bouncing their way and they get on top it is tough – they were on fire and credit to them.
“If you had offered me a silver medal 10 weeks ago, 100 per cent I would have bitten your hand off.
“I have never been through anything like this. It has been the most intense 10 weeks of my life but it has also been the best 10 weeks.
“We had a first tournament in Moscow and had a court session that bonded us all. We all seem to get on really well and we are mates for life now.”
In only 10 weeks the players from England, Scotland and Wales have come together to produce an amazing run to the final.
Harlequins’ Ollie Lindsay-Hague was also involved in the Team GB campaign, setting up Dan Norton for a try in the final while Dan Bibby – who played for Sale Sharks in 2011’s Premiership Rugby 7s competition – was instrumental.
And while other nations have been preparing for this moment for years, Team GB have shown the future of this game is very bright indeed.
“This has been a fantastic achievement – for the whole squad of 27 at the start – for the coaches and the staff,” Watson added. “We have these medals for life now.
“I hope that some of our performances will have inspired some people. I want young people to watch that and think they can win an Olympic medal.
“It’s amazing to think that we have done that, now we can just enjoy it and the rest of our time here – soak up the village experience and have a good celebration.”
Watson will return to Newcastle Falcons in time for the Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign.