Robbie Fergusson thanks family for helping him realise Olympic dream after cancer battle

A few years ago Robbie Fergusson feared he would never play rugby again, so as he prepares to head to Tokyo to represent Team GB in the men’s sevens event he has praised the “massive” influence his family has had in making his Olympic dream a reality.

Robbie Fergusson in action for the Scotland sevens team against Kenya at Twickenham. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images
Robbie Fergusson in action for the Scotland sevens team against Kenya at Twickenham. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images

Fergusson is now 27 and flying high, but when he was 20, he was hit with a bolt from the blue.

Around Christmas time in 2013 the former Scotland Under-20 cap, who played for local club Ayr at the time, began to feel sluggish while he was at training and playing in matches and had a cough.

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Antibiotics did not seem to improve the situation and things came to a head in March 2014.

Robbie Fergusson has been picked for the Team GB rugby sevens squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Picture: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Ahead of a match for Ayr against Gala he was sick in the warm-up and the next week he went to the hospital and had X-rays and lots of tests done.

He was then told he had a type of cancer called Hodgkin’s lymphoma and, as Fergusson said himself at the time, “all sorts of things started running through my head”.

Fergusson showed great character to battle back and was playing again by the October of that year.

Fast forward nearly seven years and he has played for Glasgow Warriors and London Scottish in XVs and, since 2017, has been a standout performer for Scotland Sevens on the World Series circuit.

In recent months he has clearly impressed Team GB men’s sevens head coach Tony Roques as on Friday he was one of four Scottish men – along with Max McFarland, Ross McCann and Alec Coombes – named in the squad to travel to Japan in July.

“My family have always been a massive support to me,” half back Fergusson said.

“At the time of my illness a few years ago, mum and dad were always there for me while I have been with my fiancée Gabriella for the last 12 years and she has been through it all with me – illness, non-illness, selection, non-selection – and we just had a little girl Ellie last year which has been special for us.

“My support network is great and I am extremely lucky to have the family I do to help me out, while I am away playing rugby my family really help my fiancée too and I have a great appreciation for them all.

“The coaches who have given me the opportunity to break through in sevens since 2017 also deserve a lot of praise.

“They have given me chances in my career and I have just tried to take them.

“Watching Team GB’s men getting a silver medal in Rio in 2016 was a real motivating factor for me, it made me think that getting to an Olympics would be a really big achievement – not just in sport, but in life in general.

“To now be going to Tokyo alongside three other Scottish players is just amazing.”

As well as the quartet of Scots in the men’s squad, Hannah Smith is in the women’s squad, with compatriot Lisa Thomson named as reserve.

The men’s competition will take place from 26-28 July, with the women’s tournament following on 29-31 July. All the action will take place at the Tokyo Stadium. Both squads will be in action in a pre-Olympic event in Los Angeles on 25 and 26 June.

Abbie Brown and Megan Jones will co-captain the women’s squad, while Tom Mitchell will lead the men’s squad.