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Canada had plenty of heroes Sunday as they won the Pan-Am Games, but two stood out.
Conor Trainor scored two tries when Canada seemed to be ready to let the game slip away. He intercepted a pass for one score, and then stole a lineout and rambled in for another. That, in part, was the difference.
The other hero was Nathan Hirayama. The young captain hit 20 conversions, more than any other player in the tournament. And he hit tough ones, slotting a touchline conversion in the final, and hitting some tough ones against the USA in the semis, too. Considering Canada won both those games by two points, it’s clear his contribution was huge.
We had each player speak about the other.
“His impact was massive,” Hirayama said of Trainor. “It’s hard enough to score tries as it is. But when we’re on the back foot, and he makes something happen. That’s the way sevens is. People can score at any moment, and that’s why it’s exciting.”
“Without Nathan’s kicking we’re not there. He’s the best kicker in this tournament; he’s the king,” said Trainor. “He’s put a lot of work in and it’s paying off.”
“When we’re on tour we’re practicing every day,” said Hirayama, who has been kicking for Canada in some age level since he was 17. “I think you have to approach each kick as if it’s in front of the posts. Every kick, sideline or in front, has to be the same.”
“They were just trying to throw it over and they didn’t see me coming. The guys have been pressuring all day, so I was the guy in the right place,” added Trainor, who had an easy run in from his interception, but had some work to do after he stole the Argentine lineout. “I just broke through. I felt like they weren’t going to stop me once I got going.”
Notes: After thanking the fans, the Canadian players were asked by fans for a memento. The players starting taking off their shorts and throwing them into the stands – a mother with a baby got a special throw from Phil Mack. Fortunately for all concerned, the players were wearing compression shorts underneath, and for the medal ceremony, changed into warm-ups. Thank goodness for small favors.