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Rio Olympics 2016: Fiji make history with gold in rugby sevens

Fiji players celebrate winning gold in the men's rugby sevens final. Photo / AP
Fiji players celebrate winning gold in the men's rugby sevens final. Photo / AP

Fijian fans in New Zealand and around the world were ecstatic about the golden performance of their sevens team in Rio.

Fiji claimed their first ever Olympic medal with a comprehensive 43-7 thrashing of Great Britain in the final of the men's sevens tournament.

Osea Kolinisau and his rugby sevens teammates capped Fiji's domination over the past two years with a mighty performance in the Olympic final gold medal game against a British team that was steamrollered by the powerful Fijians.


LISTEN: Kent Johns interviews an emotional Indra Singh, head of sport for the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation.

Tui Kamakorewa watched the final with about 20 other passionate supporters at a house in Onehunga, Auckland, after telling his boss there was no way he would miss the biggest rugby game in Fijian rugby history.


"I told my employer I'd be watching the rugby with my mates, its a special part of our culture," he said.


"I always thought Fiji was going to win but not by how much they did. I was really stoked with that margin."


Heading into the Games Kamakorewa thought the Fijian side would make it onto the dais, but he wasn't convinced they would claim the ultimate prize.

"We were expecting at least a medal, but to get a gold is something beyond our greatest expectations.

"It's big for our country, around the world people will notice there's a country called Fiji, and for the government it's a big thing with tourism.

"For all the people in Fiji they'll be really stoked, they'll be jumping up and down. If you were in Fiji you would realise how big this thing is going to be."

Kamakorewa expected an unproductive day in the country's capital as Fijians bask in the golden glow of their team's champion effort.

"There'll be not much work getting done in Suva today. I think there'll be a holiday today."



Fiji has sent athletes to the Olympics ever since the Melbourne Games in 1956, but had never previously won a medal.

The sevens team took that honor when it beat tournament upstart Japan 20-5 in the semifinals, but all the players and coach Ben Ryan knew that silver would not satisfy the Fijian public.

Ryan said it time and again - only gold would do for the expectant public in their Pacific island country of 900,000.


Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the win was a "wonderful moment in the history of our nation".

"We have won our first gold medal at a summer Olympic Games and every Fijian is rejoicing at home and around the world," he said in a statement.

"It has been a great privilege for me as Prime Minister to be present in Rio De Janeiro on behalf of the Fijian people to provide our collective encouragement and support.

"I have witnessed at first hand the commitment and discipline that has produced this victory and have been deeply impressed and proud.

A wonderful reception awaits our boys when they arrive back in Fiji. Never before has the Fijian spirit soared so high as it does today. Never have we stood so tall as a nation."

Although the country's leader praised the team for standing tall, it was a humble act while receiving their medals that brought them worldwide praise.

The players knelt and clapped three times while receiving their gold medals to show respect to Princess Anne, who was presenting the medals and is herself a former Olympian.

Thousands of keen supporters turned up to ANZ Stadium in Suva to watch the game on a big screen.

The Fiji Times reported that fans turned up in the national colours, waving flags and cheering the team on. Police officers were required to monitor the crowd and control traffic around the stadium.

People in Fiji will reap some of the rewards of the team's success with free calling for 12 hours today.

Telecommunications provider Digicel are one of the key sponsors of Fijian rugby, and are making all calls made on the network free from midday to midnight today, The Fiji Times reported.

Global media react to Fiji's win

Global media outlets are revelling in the feel-good story so far of the Olympics.

And Australia outlets have pointed out how the brilliant Fijians did it without the help of NRL star Jarryd Hayne.

"Jarryd Who?" mocked the Sydney Daily Telegraph in a giant headline that made it clear Hayne was not needed for the Fijians to triumph in the final in Rio against Great Britain.


Its news.com.au kicker headline was 'This is the biggest day in Fiji sporting history'

"Commentator Mark Braybrook called it "the biggest day in Fiji's sporting history", and he couldn't have been more right.

They made their country proud, and they didn't even need Jarryd Hayne's help," wrote the news outlet's live blogger.

The humility and grace shown by the victorious Fijian players was also noted by the Aussie media.

"At the medal presentation ceremony, each of Fiji's players knelt and clapped three times when receiving their bling to show respect to Great Britain's Princess Anne, who was presenting. It was a gesture that saw them lauded for their class and humility in victory - something the Olympics is all about," wrote news.com.au.

The Sydney Morning Herald was equally as effusive, describing Fiji's win as a "blinder".

"In a breathtaking display of power rugby, the Fijians ran in five tries to take a 29-0 lead at halftime before taking their collective foot of the gas a little and adding only two more after the break," wrote the Herald's correspondent, Nick Mulvenney

"Their mission complete, the Fijian players, many of them in tears, linked arms in a circle on the halfway line and sang together with eyes raised up to the dark skies above."

Jonathan McEvoy, writing in the Daily Mail, described Fiji as "dazzling" and that the final was "a total destruction".

"In front of a decent crowd at one of the most atmospheric of Rio venues, the Fijians threw the ball about with sheer elan to claim a victory that will be met with national delight - and almost certainly a national holiday - back home," wrote McEvoy.

"The Fijian singing in the stands was soon in full swing. Just as it was at the national stadium, where the pictures were beamed back."

Australian coverage inevitably tied the triumph back to Jarryd Hayne who originally tried to make the Fijian squad after giving up on his American NFL aspirations.

Under a headline of: "Team GB thrashed by Fiji....but don't worry it's still a silver medal", the British Daily Telegraph paid tribute to the rampaging Fijians.

"The Pacific islanders started in ruthless fashion, notching up up five first-half tries," the paper's website report noted.

- with news.com.au

- NZ Herald

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