Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Rio Olympics: Fijian rugby gold medalists show ultimate respect for Princess

Fiji won more than a medal today. The Rugby Sevens team managed to win the world's hearts as well after its triumph. Photo/Getty
Fiji won more than a medal today. The Rugby Sevens team managed to win the world's hearts as well after its triumph. Photo/Getty

Even as they stood on the podium as winners, the Fijian rugby sevens side showed off one last act of humility worthy of an Olympic medal.

Fiji's performance sent the small Pacific Island nation into a craze in a dominating performance during the Rugby Sevens final against Great Britain, in which they won 43-7.

Princess Anne was given the task of awarding the silver medalists and later, the gold medalists.

As she approached each Fijian player to award him his medal, each one dropped to their knees in a sign of respect unique to Fiji and the Pacific.

Cameras showed each team member, some bowing their heads, kneeling and clapping three times - something the Princess then does as well, as she continues down the line.

The humble act has been applauded by many Fijians and people from around the world, with many commenting about its uniqueness on social media.

One woman said: "If you see in our custom, we kneel and clap in the presence of royalty - and she clapped as well! Big love to Princess Anne. Fiji is the first to kneel while being adorned with medals. Respect, humility, honour, roots.''

On New Zealand screens, veteran commentator Keith Quinn was heard referring to one of the players kneeling - before seemingly realising it is a special act.

"So tall he's got down on his knees to receive his medal from Princess Anne. And it looks like that's the way the big tall men of Fiji are going to receive their medals.

"Again, this is a famous first - never seen players go to their knees to receive their medals before,'' Quinn says.

In 2013, Fijian soldier Sergeant Rusiate Bolavucu also showed off the cultural custom when he sat on the ground after speaking with Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth during a royal tour in Kendal, Cumbria.

The act shocked members of the public who had gathered around the area.

However, the Queen, who has visited the Pacific numerous times, smiled at him in understanding.

- NZ Herald

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