Queen’s double gold at Pan Ams

Former Gaels Popov and Mullins join Canadian rugby sevens road to glory 

Nadia Popov (centre) was one of a group of Queen’s athletes competing at the Pam Am Games in Toronto.

After a Pan Am Games that saw an exceptional performance by the Canadian team, the Queen’s community saw a pair of their own atop the podium. 

Former Queen’s athletes Nadia Popov and Matt Mullins were part of the gold medal-winning women’s and men’s rugby sevens teams.

The Canadian men’s only defeat was in the preliminary round, when they lost 21-7 to Argentina. They then redeemed themselves against Argentina in a final rematch, where they were victorious by a 22-19 score. Meanwhile, the Canadian women went 6-0 on their road to the gold medal, including a 55-7 drubbing against the Americans in the gold medal game.

Mullins played for the Gaels men’s team in 2013, winning the OUA championship. Meanwhile, Popov attended Queen’s for one year in 2011, where she was named OUA rookie of the year before becoming part of the national sevens team program. 

Popov found out she’d been selected for the team just three weeks prior to the event due to an injury. While it wasn’t the first time she donned the Canadian uniform, it was definitely unlike anything she’s experienced before.

“It’s a very unique atmosphere,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve been to a multi-sport games since it’s usually just a rugby-specific tournament.’

Rugby sevens is a variation on the traditional 15-a-side game, with halves being just seven minutes long compared to the typical 40. 

The 2015 Pan Am sevens tournament was packed into a two-day weekend, with the men’s side playing three preliminary and three playoff matches in an eight-team bracket, and the women playing five preliminary matches before earning a berth in the final in a six-team format. 

While both teams were unable to attend the opening ceremonies due to training, Popov said she was looking forward to being part of the closing ceremonies. Additionally, she felt the support of her fellow Canadians, both fans and athletes, was next to none.

“I really enjoyed being part of the Canadian team as a whole unit,” Popov said. She added that meeting other athletes in the village from different countries was a highlight of the games.

The event was hosted at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, typically known as BMO Field but rebranded for the Games for  sponsorship reasons.

Popov and Mullins weren’t the only two Gaels to be represented at the Pan Am Games.

They were joined by former Gaels Nicolas Pratt (rowing), Evert McLaughlin (sailing), Terry McLaughlin (sailing), Adam Simac (men’s volleyball) and Jocelyn Poirier (shooting coach).

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