This Olympics features some of the greatest athletes in the history of their respective sports - but in reality there are not huge margins between them and their opposition.

American swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps are on another level in the pool, but when it's all said and done they're only finishing a length or two (or perhaps three or four or five in Ledecky's case in tomorrow's 800m) ahead of second place.

Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura has been hailed as the Phelps of his sport after winning back-to-back all-around individual gold medals but he only scraped past Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev 92.365 to 92.266.

The American basketballers are one of the biggest outliers - their talent, athleticism and skill level is far superior than most - but even their men were run close by Australia and we hope it's the same in the women.


Then there's the Fijian Rugby Sevens team. They just didn't dominate Great Britain in the gold medal match, it was like they were playing a different sport.

From the kick-off, the game followed an almost identical pattern. One of Fiji's giant forwards would climb high to challenge the Great Britain player attempting to receive the ball - and if he didn't knock it to one of his teammates' advantage, it wasn't long before they laid a tackle to turn it over. Then within three or four drives forward - every single one ending with the Fijian player standing tall in the tackle and pitching the ball back to a teammate - a try was scored.

There was no need for a clean out because the ball never stood still. Not for a moment. By the end of the first 10-minute half, captain Osea Kolinisau and his band of brothers had crossed five times. Great Britain hadn't even gotten out of their own half.

This must have been what it was like to watch Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and the rest of the Dream Team in Barcelona in 1992. An elevation of a sport to a level where it almost became art.

Unfortunately, Great Britain captain Tom Mitchell had little time to appreciate it as he stood in the path of the gigantic Islanders.

"It's not the first time I've been on the wrong side of a result like that against Fiji," Mitchell said.

"When these guys are on fire it's very difficult to come back. You try and find solutions out there on the pitch but from what I saw in that game after the first couple of scores we were thinking, 'We haven't done too much wrong here, there's not much to change.'

"You've just got to try to weather the storm."

Great Britain did manage a converted try in the second stanza but a 29-0 halftime lead became 43-7 by the final buzzer. It was a whitewash. But not the type that's boring to watch. This was as good as an advertisement you could hope for, for a sport whose future in the Olympics is only guaranteed to Tokyo 2020.

"It was right that the team that plays such wonderful rugby got the gold medal," Great Britain coach Simon Amor said. "When these Fijian guys are on form, they're untouchable. They saved their best to the very end. (It was) breath-taking rugby."

Great Britain's downfall was plotted by an Englishman. Ben Ryan is a celebrity in the island nation after leading it to back-to-back world series titles and has even had Fijian children named after him.

There will be a few more after this night. Leading into the contest, Ryan had reviewed a game played 30 months earlier in Hong Kong. Amor's team had gotten the better of his that night by suffocating its normally free-flowing game. It wouldn't happen this time.

"We knew we had to be very deliberate in what we did," Ryan said. "We had to take them on ... and not accept the tackle. That was a key point for us. We were going to drive through tackles and work hard to stay on our feet. We didn't want (Great Britain forwards) James Davies and Phil Burgess getting us to the floor where they were causing mayhem over the last few days. We had to stay on our feet, keep the ball alive and hit them hard."

The kick-off strategy was also perfectly-planned - and executed.

"It helps when you have 6'8" Leone Nakarawa at 124kg catching it one handed and then you take him off and put on 6'7" Villiame Mata," Ryan said. "It does make things slightly easier for a coach."

When Ryan and his players arrived home after winning their first world series it took the bus they were riding in nine hours to arrive at its destination because young children were carefully placed in its path, forcing the team to stop and take photographs.

Ryan dared not think how long it will take this time. This gold medal - the country's first - will be celebrated like no other in this Olympics. But perhaps just as important as what it means to a nation still recovering from Cyclone Winston is what the team's performance will do for the sport on a global scale.

"We did say before kick-off we wanted to have fun and we wanted to show people the way to play the Fijian way and we delivered that in fairly spectacular fashion," Ryan said.

You can't tell this team's story without touching on the player who became its biggest star for a few short weeks in the lead-up to these Games.

Jarryd Hayne didn't make the final cut for Rio. After watching Fiji play, you understood why.

But his Fijian brothers didn't forget him.

"I just want to thank Jarryd for being part of this team coming into the Olympics," substitute Josua Tuisova said. "It's bad luck he wasn't here for the 12-member squad but I just want to thank Jarryd Hayne for his support. He's a good guy."

"We said that when we win the medal it's about the 24 (players) that started out the journey," Kolinisau added.

"They made us better players in the weeks we spent together back home (training) on the sand dunes. Jarryd, we did it!"