CAPE TOWN - At the age of 33, Chris Dry may have thought that his Olympic dream was over.
The Springbok Sevens veteran was part of the Blitzboks’ travelling party to the 2016 Rio Games as a reserve, but did not make it on to the pitch in Brazil as the South Africans clinched a bronze medal in the third-place playoff against Japan.
Now five years later, they are in the Asian country, but Dry is now part of the 13-man playing squad, with Ruhan Nel the travelling reserve this time around.
He is the second-most experienced member of the group with 73 World Series tournaments – one fewer than Branco du Preez.
The Blitzboks are currently in a training camp in Kagoshima – the same place in which the Springboks prepared for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which is about 1 000km south-east of Tokyo and a 90-minute flight.
The South Africans have had a difficult start to their campaign, with coach Neil Powell testing positive for Covid-19 and having to assist the team via online platforms as he is in isolation in Kagoshima for 14 days.
Their tournament starts on Monday July 26 against Ireland (4am SA time), followed by Kenya (12pm) on the same day. They will then face the United States on Tuesday July 27 (4.30am), and will hopefully qualify for the quarter-finals on the same day, with the semi-finals and final a day later.
Since the team were cleared to return to training this week after an enforced quarantine period, they still have to deal with daily Covid-19 testing – something Dry was not enjoying, judging from a video posted on the Blitzboks’ social media pages.
“We sit every morning and wait for those tests, and we hope and pray that it’s negative the whole time! But we are focusing on the positives and what we want to achieve, and if it happens (that we test positive), then it will obviously be a big blow for us. But we are focusing on the positives,” Dry said from Kagoshima.
“It is a nerve-wracking thing, but we are fortunate to have everything under control, and I try not to think about it too much.”
But now that moment of becoming an Olympian is getting ever closer for the former Cheetahs loose forward. “I won’t say I feel like an Olympian yet. But as we build up and get closer to the tournament, definitely more excited. I definitely feel that it is starting to become a reality after the broadcast on TV (in Japan) of how everything began,” Dry said.
“We definitely sat behind the scenes and watched, and again, it’s very exciting for us to be here and part of the Olympic Games, which is the biggest thing in the (sporting) world. We are really looking forward to it.
“To miss the previous Olympics, and to get a chance now again and knowing that we might not be part of it again (in case of Covid-19) sits in the back of our heads. But for now, we are focusing on what we want to achieve, and if we get a chance, we want to take full advantage of it.”