Powerhouse sprinter Trae Williams will add the X-factor of raw speed to the Australia rugby sevens squad after switching sports little more than a year out from the Tokyo Olympics.
Williams, nicknamed Quadzilla, set his 100m personal best of 10.10 seconds at the 2018 Commonwealth Games trials and just 10 days after representing Australia at the world relays meet in Japan, the 22-year-old announced he was changing sports.
I’m really excited about this new adventure with the Aussie 7s,” he said after signing a contract with Rugby Australia through until 2021.
“I’ve always loved rugby and to be able to potentially chase an Olympic dream through rugby is something I never expected. I want to grab this opportunity with both hands.”
The 76kg Williams played schoolboy rugby and rugby league in Brisbane and attended academy training sessions with NRL club North Queensland in 2014.
The Australia men’s sevens team currently sit seventh on the World Series standings, well below the top-four finish needed for automatic qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
Australia will have a chance to guarantee its spot at the Tokyo Games at an Oceania qualifying tournament in November.
Williams will attend this weekend’s London round of the World Series as an observer.
Australia sevens coach Tim Walsh said Williams was looking forward to joining the program.
“We’ve identified that a key area we need to improve on is adding more speed to our squad and Trae is the combination of speed and physical ability,” he said in a statement.
“Physically he is in excellent condition to convert into sevens and what he will potentially offer us in terms of speed out wide will add to what we offer on the world stage.
“Players with sprinting backgrounds have made excellent converts to the game such as the USA’s Perry Baker and Carlin Isles as well as our very own Ellia Green and we believe Trae’s transfer will be just as successful.”
Williams’ decision to quit track and field is a blow to a young and improving 4x100m squad which also includes Rohan Browning and Jack Hale.
They have high hopes of qualifying for the world championships in Doha beginning in late September and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Williams ran the lead-off leg at the recent world relays in Yokohama where the Australia squad was eliminated in the heats.
“Trae has been great for the green and gold and has been an asset in Australian teams over the past five years,” Athletics Australia head of performance and coaching Christian Malcolm said in a statement.
“While we will miss having him around, it is important that we continue to work hard to retain our talented athletes in the sport.”
Williams’ 100m PB of 10.10 puts the 2018 national title-holder in fourth spot on the Australian all-time list.