By day, Henrique Platais works as a marketing analytics manager at Coca-Cola Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. And when he's off the clock, he can usually be found on the rugby field. In fact, he was one of only 14 rugby referees selected to officiate the action during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
But it wasn't about luck or coincidence. Platais has worked hard to achieve his dream. "In 2009, when it was announced that the Olympic Games would be held in Rio, and soon after, that rugby would be part of the program, I thought: 'I want to be there'. I knew my chances as a player would be slim, so I decided to invest in a referee career."
Platais grew up in Niteroi, Brazil, and played rugby with his cousins, father and brother. "I have played since I was 13 years old, but always as a hobby. I even joined the Brazilian national team once, but it's hard to stay dedicated to the sport at a high level, while trying to work and study. Becoming a referee gave me the opportunity to go the Games."
Once he decided to focus on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Platais had five years to prepare. "I started to referee the first division in Brazil and received support from the most experienced referees. I went to the Brazilian and South American Championships, and then in 2011, I was selected for a process in the World Rugby Federation... a program that recruits referees in the world, only eight per year, to be eligible for the World Panel. It was my big chance to go to the Olympics, and I did it!"
Rugby Sevens, an intense and fast-moving style of play, made its Olympic Games debut in Rio. Traditional rugby, with 15 players per side, was last part of the Olympic program in 1924.
"For the sport, it is important to be part of the Games, as it gives visibility," Platais said. "When a sports modality earns a status of an Olympic Sport, it helps in fundraising and sponsorship, and of course attracting new players and fans. For an athlete, playing a sport with the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games is an extra motivation."
After the Olympic Games, Platais intends to slow down. He won't stop refereeing, but he wants to limit the number of championship leagues in which he works.
"The level of sacrifice required is too much. Usually on the weekends, I'm refereeing games in other countries. Once, I left Argentina at 2 am to go work on the same day. I have also been to Canada to stay only two days. It was exhausting, but I had a goal," he concluded. "And it was worth it."