From Reality TV To Jamaican Rugby Star
We all cherish tales of athletes rising from grass-roots to international stardom. But few stories stray as far from the trodden path as that of current Jamaica Sevens international, Dyneal Fessal.
Fessal has the type of infectious, bubbly attitude that could whip up a frenzy from even the most solemn of crowds. He has trained under Olympic gold medal winners, starred in the hit ITV series Take Me Out and will take his bow at the Sevens Rugby World Cup later this week.
The 26-year-old is due to fly out to San Francisco later today with the aim of starting the biggest tournament of his rugby career with a bang. Qualifying for Jamaica through his grandmother, Fessal spent the majority of his sporting upbringing in America, after heading across the Atlantic Ocean at the age of ten.
“I was born in England but my parents decided to start their own business in America,” Fessal tells Rugby World. “I wasn’t going to say no to basically living right next to Disney World! It’s weird how things have worked out, I wouldn’t have even thought I’d be in this sort of position now. Never.”
Now 26 and studying for his masters in sports psychology at Brunel University, the Jamaican prop/centre did not take to rugby until he was 19, having spent the previous few years being trained as a 400-metre runner by former 1992 Olympic gold medal winner, Dennis Mitchell. Fessal decided not to pursue athletics once he returned to England, concerned that without the presence of a coach of Mitchell’s quality, he would struggle to make it to the top of the sport.
After signing up for a sports science course at Warwickshire College, Fessal decided to make his transition to an immersive team game. At 6ft 5in, 116kg and with the pace of a trained sprinter, the teenage Fessal made for an imposing presence on the wing and was shortly picked up on as an emerging talent, fast-tracked to the county set-up with less than a season under his belt.
However, after a few seasons at Henley Hawks, he fell out of love for the 15-man game and was introduced to the seven-man code.
“I joined when they (Henley) were relegated to National Two.” He says. “I think that’s around the time I stopped enjoying playing 15s. Then the coach asked if I had tried sevens, and ever since then, I can’t not play it. I just love playing sevens.
“I started playing properly with Apache Sevens, in Maidenhead,” he continues. “The coach there, Adam Hurst, is a phenomenal coach. He knows what he’s talking about and for where I was at the time with my rugby, he knew what to say and how to push me to get the best out of me. I think that’s where it really started to pick up.
“I still play for them whenever I’m not playing for Jamaica. I love that club, it’s amazing. I just have the best fun.”