Raw pace puts Ben Lam in sevens fast lane

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2013
Ben Lam
PHIL REID/FAIRFAX NZ
SPRINT PROWESS: Ben Lam, right, gets a pass away during training with the New Zealand Sevens squad.

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Ben Lam was a bit of a latecomer to rugby.

Athletics was his thing growing up, principally the 100 and 200 metres, as well as the long jump. He was pretty handy at it too, breaking 11 seconds for the 100 during his days at Auckland's St Peter's College.

But rugby eventually beckons many schoolboy athletes and by his mid-teens Lam, now 21, could no longer resist its advances.

It's been a good move, too, with the rangy wing graduating to the Auckland and Blues sides last year.

Now he's under contract as a New Zealand sevens player, making his debut for Gordon Tietjens' side at Dubai in late November.

If anyone should be used to running for running's sake, then it's Lam.

But as he counts down to the start of the Wellington leg of the IRB series tomorrow, Lam was quick to profess that nothing prepares a player for what awaits them at Tietjens' training sessions.

"We've just been running," Lam said yesterday.

Over and over again. It doesn't sound great fun, but it can't be too foreign to Lam.

"Not completely, but the amount of repetitions is kind of alien."

Equally, it's what Lam signed up for. Cut from the Blues squad for this year, after John Kirwan took over from Lam's uncle, Pat, as the team's head coach, he had some thinking to do.

"I actually got offered a wider Blues [training group spot] and I kind of tossed up between this and that and decided this is where I want to be. In the long run I think it will help me," said Lam.

"Titch being the coach was a big swinging point. Just being under his guidance and learning from him will be a valuable experience."

Certainly Tietjens' track record suggests guys don't leave his environment worse players than they arrived.

"No, definitely not. Definitely fitter as well; that's always good," said Lam.

Lam hoped his time with Tietjens, however long it lasts, would prove "a stepping stone" to other things.

But he's also very conscious of sevens' new Olympic status and the opportunity to participate in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"I'd love to play at the Olympics - it's one thing every athlete wants to do," he said.

"Especially for me, growing up as I did in athletics. A gold medal is something you always want when you're an athlete and this is a chance to get that."

No prizes for guessing what his immediate goal is.

"This is our home tournament ... For us, this is the one we have to get right."

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- The Dominion Post

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