Sean Horan, New Zealand women's silver medal-winning coach at Rio 2016, is set to lead another side at an Olympic Games after his new charges China used their recent HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series experience to overpower a largely youthful Hong Kong team and win the Asia Rugby qualification tournament on home soil in Guangzhou.
China did not feature in Rio when rugby sevens made its debut in Brazil but they can now look forward to challenging the best teams in the world on sport's greatest stage after an impressive display not only in the final but throughout the two days of competition.
China reached the final after overcoming Thailand 34-0 in the last four, bringing their total points scored on the weekend to 180 against just seven – scored by Hong Kong in Saturday's pool encounter, a 42-7 win for the firm favourites for qualification.
Despite having a squad containing two 17-year-olds, Hong Kong managed to book their place in the semi-finals, where they upset Kazakhstan 19-7.
In the showcase game, the learning curve proved too steep for Hong Kong as China extended a 12-0 lead at the break into a final 33-0 victory.
Star in the making
Chen Keyi confirmed her status as one of the hottest properties in women's sevens with a brace of tries – taking her overall tally for the tournament to nine – as well as kicking four conversions, while China's other scores came from Yang Feifei, Yu Xiaoming, Liu Xiaoqian and Gu Yaoyao.
While China now take the direct route to Tokyo, Hong Kong get another chance to qualify via the global repechage next year, along with bronze medal winners Kazakhstan, who took their place on the podium after a 17-14 win over Thailand in the third-place play-off.
Hong Kong coach Iain Monaghan was disappointed not to seal automatic qualification but was proud of the way his side performed overall.
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the effort of the entire squad and extremely proud of them all. We went toe to toe with China but didn’t get the bounce of the ball we needed to create or sustain our momentum. Sport is cruel and fair play to China, they are a very good team," he said.
“We can hold our heads up high. We have a young group that is in pursuit of excellence and while there were some teary eyes after the final, they understand we are on a journey and that not all teams get to the top by winning, it takes a lot of losing as well.
China's qualification takes the number of confirmed teams for the women's competition at Tokyo 2020 to 10 with hosts Japan, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Kenya and Fiji having already booked their tickets. This leaves only two places to be filled via the global repechage next year.
For all the results from Guangzhou, click here.