You might have heard of Ben Cima. Or more likely, you might have watched a video of Ben Cima.
Back in February, more than a million people watched the video clip of Cima kicking a last-minute monster penalty to give USA Under 20s a last gasp victory over Canada to book his country’s place at the Junior World Rugby Trophy.
So what is life like for an overnight sensation? “It has been pretty normal!” Ben said when we caught up with him. “I get the occasional comment from folks who saw the video on Facebook or YouTube, but other than that it is back to normal really. I go to school during the week, and then practice with my club, Rocky Gorge.”
Normal for Ben perhaps, but since when is 1 million views of a video normal? “It was an amazing feeling seeing the video being watched over 1 million times, and the feeling remained for a few days after. When I returned to school I got congratulations from all of my friends who had seen the video, but other than that, no one really saw the video or understood the importance of it.”
Cima plays the part of humble sportsman very well already. He is still young, just 20, but speaks like a more senior man.
If you haven’t seen the kick – and we implore you to go here
and look – USA won a penalty in the 80th minute some 55 metres from goal. Rather than go for a lineout up field, Cima indicated he wanted to kick for the posts. “When the penalty was given I knew I wanted to take points right away. My teammates were calling for it as well, so that support gave me a lot of confidence. I knew I had the distance from there. I had taken kicks from farther during our walk through the day before. Right after the kick, it did not really hit me what had happened. It took a few minutes to really sit in.”
That winning kick took Cima’s team through to the Junior World Rugby Trophy in Zimbabwe. The tournament was eventually won by Samoa, but it didn’t go quite to plan for USA. “For the team, we did not do as well as we would have hoped. We lost two games by two points, and that’s a very tough pill to swallow. In our third game of pool play, we had the opportunity to reach the Grand Final, and to Spain’s credit, they played unbelievable defence. That took us to the 5th and 6th place game, and we beat Uruguay to end off the trip on a great note.”
For any 20 year old, the opportunity to travel to major tournaments and experience different cultures is amazing. “Personally, the trip was unbelievable. Those trips are always learning experiences to develop as a player and a person. On a personal note, I had never been to Africa, and experiencing different cultures and ways of life are tremendous opportunities for personal growth.”
Cima’s journey to this point in his career is not what you might expect from a traditional young American sports star. Traditionally you might think an American Football career had veered towards rugby, but that was not the case. “I was actually born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, so I grew up playing rugby there. My father played rugby for 30 years, so I had a rugby ball in my hands at a very young age. When we moved to the States he tried to put me in any sort of rugby team or games we could find. It started at age grade touch leagues because youth tackle leagues are hard to come by, but it often meant I was playing with older players and this has continue throughout my entire career.”
Rugby is the fastest growing team sport in the United States at the moment. New leagues are popping up and the game is really capturing more mainstream interest, particularly with the Aviva Premiership Rugby game between London Irish and Saracens in March. Does Cima notice a shift towards the oval ball game? “It’s amazing to see the growth of rugby, and it’s even better to be a part of it. Like I said, my father played rugby for 30 years and introduced me to rugby at a very young age. More and more kids are beginning to be curious about the sport and asking their parents to play which is brilliant.”
Rumours circulated last year that Cima would be coming to play rugby in Europe – but he doesn’t necessarily feel that is the appropriate move yet. “I received a contract from a club in France, but it was not the right time for me. If the right opportunity presented itself I would make the move to Europe, but for now, I am staying at my university and my club. Hopefully in the future I will have a Rugby World Cup under my belt. Other than that I cannot say where I will be.”
We asked Ben who his heroes were and he cited Argentine legends Hugo Porta and Juan Martin Hernandez. However, his next line was perhaps the most compelling. “I like to watch the likes of Tom Brady or Steph Curry who are flat-out winners. I look up to players who play their best in the biggest moments.” In that sense, Ben Cima has started as he means to go on.
During the JWRT in Zimbabwe Ben wore a combination of the Ignite Fly
and the brand new Evolution V1
boots, Ben commented “the Ignite Fly Boot and the Evolution V1 Boot are great. They are really light weight and have great traction. I did not slip once in significantly muddy conditions the past Saturday. Kicking is very easy as they are thin, but not too thin. I loved them and they are coming with me to Zimbabwe.”
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