Great Britain could do nothing to stop rampant, free-spirited Fiji, watched by their prime minister wearing a white t-shirt, claiming the first Olympic medal in their history at the inaugural rugby sevens tournament thrashing the mighty Brits with a terrific scoreline of 43-7. It took 60 years, but Fiji finally earned an Olympic medal within hours of their embarrassing 10-0 drubbing at the hands of Germany in the men’s football tournament.
All hard feelings from the loss however, was forgotten as the country, known for its vacation sports are jubilantly celebrating their success in the biggest athletic meet in the world.
What’s ironic is that Fiji was colonised by Great Britain before gaining independence in 1970. Fiji created history by defeating their former parent of 46 years and claiming the ultimate prize, the gold medal in the Rio Olympics game village.
“It is a bit awkward that we had to beat Britain, with all that history there,”
– Feini Lakai, an officer manager in Suva
Fiji made its Olympic debut in 1956. Prior to this Olympics, only two Fijian athletes have ever qualified for Games via Olympic standards and none ever reached a final.
The win was rare good news for this impoverished South Pacific nation of 900,000, which is still recovering from the devastation of Cyclone Winston in February when 43 people died and tens of thousands were left homeless.
“We’ve got celebrations programmed for when [the team] return. We are all proud to be Fijians right now,”
– Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama
A 20-5 win over Japan secured Fiji’s spot in the championship match which they had to fight out versus the great British.
On the night, though, it was a total destruction. Captain Osea Kolinisau was the first over in the corner. Then Jerry Tuwai was teed up by Semi Kunatani to make it 10-0. Then Jasa Veremalua. Then Leone Nakarawa. Then Vatemo Ravouvou. All before half-time, when the score was a bewildering 29-0. Fiji were dazzling and went on to wrap victory up with Josua Tuisova going over. So by the time Dan Norton scored for Britain, it was nothing but a consolation. The Fijian singing in the stands was soon in full swing.
“I’m at a loss of words, the boys were on another scale of phenomenal. They were brilliant. This is the nation’s team. The entire country will have watched this and they all should be thrilled about the performance.”
-Fiji Rugby coach Ben Ryan