The day Ireland Olympian Costello made RWC history

Long before sevens became an Olympic sport, the hard-running number eight competed in the shot put at Barcelona 1992. Eleven years later, he scored a noteworthy Rugby World Cup try.

TOKYO, 17 Oct - When Ruaridh McConnochie scored England's fifth try in their 45-7 win against the USA, the winger was rightly lauded as the first Olympic medallist to score a Rugby World Cup try.

But, in terms of longevity and versatility, another RWC try-scoring Olympian may arguably eclipse the accomplishments of McConnochie, who was a member of the Great Britain sevens side that finished runners-up to Fiji at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

In 1992, Victor Costello represented Ireland in the shot put at the Olympic Games in Barcelona. Eleven years later - and 12 days short of his 33rd birthday - the back-row forward barged his way over from a five-metre scrum as Ireland beat Romania 45-17 in their opening match at RWC 2003. His try was the first by an Olympian at a World Cup.

Costello was a shot-put prodigy, winning the Irish title at just 16 and holding it for five years. His father, Paddy 'Butch' Costello, had also been the national shot put champion and he went on to play second-row for Ireland, winning one cap in 1960.

Victor finished 11th in the qualifying round in Barcelona, a creditable performance for a 21-year-old who appeared to be a rising star in his event. But he had already made up his mind that the 1992 Games would be his first and last Olympics.

"Barcelona was an incredible experience," Costello said, while keeping a close eye on Ireland's progress in Japan from back home, where he is a commercial pilot and rugby analyst. "Many good Irish athletes never got to the Olympics, but fortunately the timing worked well for me.

"In the back of my mind, I thought it was the end of my athletics career, rather than the start. I always knew I wanted to play rugby. I felt that the team mentality was much more rewarding and fulfilling than the selfish, singular mentality of field events."

There was disappointment in Irish athletics when he quit the sport, and Costello recalls that "the decision to leave and play rugby was hard to justify to the Irish athletics board at 21 years of age, but rugby was better funded in Ireland and had better structures in place".

The hard-running number eight made his debut for Blackrock College in the All-Ireland League later that year. In 1996, he won the first of his 39 caps in an eight-year international career.

"The Rugby World Cup in 2003 was a major goal of mine from years out. Scoring against Romania was just the start I wanted. It wasn't in the gameplan but I knew I would make the try-line from the five-metre line.

"World Cups are all about personal and team confidence and momentum. That moment set me off on the right foot but, as always, there were tougher times ahead."

After going agonisingly close to beating hosts Australia in the pool stages, Ireland came up against a vintage France team in the quarter-finals. Costello started in the back row but his team were blown away 43-21, and Ireland have failed to make it to a semi-final in the years since.

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