Pablo Feijoo is not only the captain of the Spanish team but surely its soul, recognised as a great captain.
His extensive rugby career has covered not only several years in Sevens, but also in XVs playing at scrum-half. In 2007 he signed for Leicester Tigers, before finishing his career in England playing for Waterloo RFC.
Once back in Spain he played for some of the best teams in the country, winning the most important titles. His slight figure hides pure magic.
Now 15 years on from his debut in Sevens, he recognises just how much the sport has changed.
“Before it was more individualistic and based around personal skills, I mean, everyone steps and steps until a gap was found, it was almost an individual challenge. It has evolved a lot. Now the game is faster, more physical and collective,” he explained.
“Every year players are bigger and stronger, which makes the rucks and scrums a constant battle. It is much more physical.”
Even for a veteran like Feijoo the Olympics will be an utterly new experience, one he believes will begin a mass following of the sport across the globe.
“I think there is going to be an explosion of participation in Sevens, especially for those small nations. The Olympics are going to bring us closer to millions of people, showing to them a dynamic sport, full of strength, skills and easy to watch.”
Getting to the top of the Men’s Sevens game has been a challenge, with staying at that level proving even harder. For Feijoo, the Olympics need to be more than just a singular moment of success.
“Spain needs more players who want to commit at higher levels. I mean, players who want to train more and better. For that, we need to improve the structures and give them a chance,” he explains.
“As soon as we have a group of 30-40 players of high level we can compete and maintain the level over the time,” he explains.
“The Olympics are the maximum we can get as sportsmen and as a team. We are quite happy, but if we talk about the development of Sevens in Spain it is more important to qualify for the World Series because it enables us to play during the whole year with the best players. It will help a lot to improve our level.
“As for the Olympics, we’re in a tough group with South Africa, Australia and France, but we are eager to compete with everyone. Of course, we expect to win.”
It was hard not to be moved by the sight of Feijoo after Spain’s qualification was secured openly weeping at the realisation of what he and his country had achieved.
His words reflecting on that moment are another reminder of the sacrifices athletes make to reach the Olympics, and how worth it everything seems afterward.
He explains: “After the final whistle many memories came back to me; the hard times and the happy times as well during the year.
“But, overall, I realised that everything I had done during the last 15 years, it all made sense.”
Pablo Feijoo spoke to Juan María Garcia