Olympic heroes receive historic welcome in Fiji

Rugby Sevens bring home their first gold

Apurv Shukla – 

History will mark August 11, 2016 as one of the greatest days for Fiji sport.

It was the day when the Fiji Rugby Sevens team won the first gold medal for their nation at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. It capped off a spectacular two-year run of domination of the sport for the Island nation.

Rugby sevens made its debut at Rio and found deserving champions in the Flying Fijians.

Spectacular Play

The Fijian style of Rugby is all flair and finesse.

The ability to keep the ball alive combined with their trademark creativeness is the platform on which their game is built.

It was this skill, coupled by the passion and exuberance that led the side to win, easily beating Great Britain 43-7 in the finals at the Deodoro Stadium in Rio.

Olympics heroes receive- Fiji's Rugby Seven team at Rio Web

On route to the summit clash, the team had knocked out pre-tournament favourites New Zealand 12-7 in the quarters, before beating the tenacious Japanese 20-5 in the semi-finals.

Captain Osea Kolinisau and winger Josua Tuisova were the outstanding players. Tuisova, nicknamed the ‘Human Bulldozer’ for his supreme physicality on the Rugby field; has been seldom successfully tackled by his opponents.

Coach Ben Ryan has also had a profound impact on the team since being appointed the coach in 2013.

The Englishman has turned the team into a fitter and more consistent unit. The strong Fijian defence has Ryan’s stamp all over it.

High State Honours

Fiji has been sending its athletes to Olympics since 1956 (Melbourne) but the win at this year’s event was a perfect reward for hard work and support that the team received from the country’s government and people.

Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and his ministerial colleagues were among thousands of people present at the Nadi International Airport when their national heroes returned home on August 21, 2016.

He later joined President Jioji (George) Konousi Konrote, ministers, Members of Parliament, government officials and community leaders and ordinary New Zealanders at Prince Charles Stadium to accord the team a warm reception.

Mr Konrote made Coach Ben Ryan a Companion of the Order of Fiji, the highest civil honour in Fiji, while the Fijian players and team managers were made Officers of the Order of Fiji. All of them received a cash award of US$ 30,000 each.

Olympics heroes receive- Thousands greet their national Rugby Sevens team Web

Good Example

The win for Fiji is a good example of how single-minded devotion and passion towards a goal can help overcome obstacles.

Fijian players do not have access to world class facilities or have a Rugby Union flush with funds. What they do have is unadulterated love for the sport.

This has led to thousands playing the game, and establishment of a strong domestic Rugby structure.

Colonial Cup and Pacific Rugby Cup produce battle-hardened players ready to step up to the demands of international Rugby Sevens.

Fiji can and should achieve more in sports like Test Rugby and Soccer.

Global sporting authorities should divert more resources towards Fiji- their success is good for sport in general.

Some home truths

In his speech at the Reception, Mr Bainimarama said that the Gold Medal ‘glittered as bright as the Pacific Sun.’

“We are all very lucky not only to see Fiji win Gold at the Olympics but also to be living in a golden age. Forty-Six years after Independence, we are finally showing the promise as a nation that most of us of a certain age always knew was there. But which we were squandering by not being able to work together as a team.

The full text of Mr Bainimarama’s speech can be accessed on the Fiji Government Website (www.fiji.gov.fj).

Photo:

  1. Captain Osea Kolinisau was an outstanding player at Olympics 2016
  2. What a win it was! – The Rugby Sevens soon after victory
  3. Thousands greet their national heroes in Nandi on August 21

Pictures Courtesy: cnn.com

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