Aussie sprint star Trae Williams has shocked the athletics world by switching to rugby sevens.
The man nicknamed ‘Quadzilla’ will add the X-factor of raw speed to the Australian rugby sevens squad after switching little more than a year out from the Tokyo Olympics.
Williams 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 shock decision has made international headlines, with American sprint-turned-rugby star Carlin Isles taking notice.
Isles is widely regarded as the fastest man in rugby, but his PB of 10.13 is slower than Williams’.
Isles fired back at some tweets that Australia now has the fastest man in rugby, saying “I’m not losing no race period! Fastest forever!”
Meet rugby's new fastest man - his nickname is 'Quadzilla' https://t.co/68ZBvkUCZY— Ben Ryan (@benjaminryan) May 22, 2019
Williams played rugby and rugby league at school. Trialled with the Broncos and Cowboys before committing to sprinting.— Iain Payten (@iainpayten) May 22, 2019
Oh, and for the record, Carlin Isles' best over 100m is 10.13.
I’m not losing no race period! Fastest forever!— Carlin Isles (@Carlin_Isles) May 22, 2019
His decision also made international headlines in the rugby and athletics worlds.
Those are some wheels! 🚀— Simon Baillie (@SimonBaillie2) May 22, 2019
Unlike the US track converts, Quadzilla here comes from a country where rugby/footie/Aussie rules are the most popular sports, so stands to reason he's had more exposure and experience to a similar form of sport. Could be a brilliant move for @Aussie7s
You know how much we appreciate "quad management"...well have a look at Rugby 7's newest recruit.— Eggchasers Podcast (@RugbyPodcast) May 22, 2019
Australian sprinter Trae "Quadzilla" Williams 😍😍😍 pic.twitter.com/3N9aLcmFSy
‘Speed and ability’
The 76kg Williams played schoolboy rugby and rugby league in Brisbane and attended academy training sessions with NRL club North Queensland in 2014.
The Australian 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.
But the Australian team is still likely 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.
Australian 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."
Blow to athletics
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 Australian 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.