Fiji Sun - - Front Page - STEVE THOM­SEN Edited by Osea Bola Feed­back: os­eab@fi­jisun.com.fj

Park City, Utah, which sits high in Wasatch Moun­tains, was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics. But for the past week it has been the train­ing grounds for the Fiji Air­ways Fi­jian 7s as they pre­pare for the Rugby World Cup Sevens at AT&T Park in San Fran­cisco, next week­end.

At nearly 2,150 me­tres in el­e­va­tion, the moun­tain air in Park City is thin. Fiji Air­ways Fi­jian 7s coach Gareth Baber hopes that train­ing at this high al­ti­tude, far from the dis­trac­tions of Cal­i­for­nia, will give his team an en­durance ad­van­tage as they com­pete against the win­ner of the Ja­pan-Uruguay match July 21 at sea level. “This has been a very pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment,” Baber said. “Train­ing at al­ti­tude and the ad­van­tage it gives us was one of the el­e­ments in our de­ci­sion to train here. We were look­ing for a good train­ing fa­cil­ity, good ac­com­mo­da­tion, and good food. This was the best bang for the buck.”

The team’s train­ing fa­cil­ity is nes­tled be­hind a large hill that pro­vides plenty of pri­vacy. Not far away is the fa­mous Deer Val­ley Ski Re­sort and the Olympic Park. There’s no snow in July, but the tem­per­a­tures are cooler up in the moun­tains than down in the nearby Salt Lake Val­ley, where July tem­per­a­tures typ­i­cally range from 3540 C.

“The weather has been dry and clear and we’ve got good air to breathe. This al­lows us to slow things down and re­ally coach with­out it be­ing too hot or hav­ing rain,” Baber said.

Team cap­tain Sere­maia Tuwai said the first cou­ple of days train­ing at al­ti­tude were hard. “We were strug­gling with the thin air. But now we’re run­ning hard and have ad­justed.”

The team is us­ing GPS mon­i­tors that are placed in each team mem­ber’s kit dur­ing train­ing ses­sions to mea­sure phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity such as to­tal dis­tance run and max­i­mum speeds. “We know just how fit they are,” Baber said. “We’re hav­ing good re­sponses to the train­ing.”

Baber said it is a bit dif­fi­cult not know­ing yet who they will face in their open­ing match.

“This chal­lenge runs through the whole tour­na­ment,” he added, not­ing that he has a lot of re­spect for both po­ten­tial op­po­nents.

“We match up well and both teams have their own style of play,” Baber said.

The Fiji 7s squad is young, Tuwai said.

“We have lots of po­ten­tial. We came here to im­prove on what we do. We are in a good po­si­tion.” Ac­cord­ing to the web­site www. rwc­sev­ens.com, the Fi­jians are the tour­na­ment’s sec­ond seed. South Africa is the num­ber one seed: “The top 14 seeds are ranked ac­cord­ing to points ac­crued on the 2016-17 se­ries and first seven rounds of 2018 in Dubai, Cape Town, Sydney, Hamil­ton, Las Ve­gas, Van­cou­ver and Hong Kong.” The team will fly to San Fran­cisco on Mon­day.

The Fiji Air­ways Fi­jiana team, the sev­enth seed, will play Spain, the 10th seed, on July 20.

■Steve Thom­sen is the Di­rec­tor of In­ter­na­tional Me­dia Stud­ies at Brigham Young Univer­sity, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Photo: Steve Thom­sen

Fiji Air­ways Fi­jian 7s head coach Gareth Baber mon­i­tors train­ing at Park City, Utah on July 12, 2018.

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