Fiji's emotional Olympic gold lifts a tiny nation

4 months ago 23
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Jerry Tuwai is simply a two-time Olympic champion and his Fiji rugby sevens squad has fixed the radical of their Pacific land federation thing to observe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fiji clinched back-to-back Olympic golden medals with a 27-12 triumph implicit New Zealand connected Wednesday successful the last astatine the Tokyo Games.

The authorities declared a nationalist vacation and the cardinal slope printed $7 notes to commemorate Fiji's golden medal — the country's archetypal Olympic medal of immoderate benignant — erstwhile rugby sevens made its Olympic debut successful 2016.

It's going to beryllium hard to apical that.

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Jerry Tuwai of Fiji sings connected the podium with his teammates aft receiving their golden medals. (Getty)

There'll beryllium clip to deliberation astir it, though. Tuwai's squad has already been successful campy successful bio-secure bubbles since the archetypal week of April, starting successful the Christian hostel successful Suva, wherever they had to physique a gym successful the store to stay successful isolation, past successful Australia and successful Japan. There's inactive a two-week quarantine erstwhile they get home.

The sacrifices from players and staff, their families and their supporters made the Tokyo golden medal much important than the archetypal 1 for Tuwai, a begetter of three.

"It's much special," helium said. "We've been distant from our household for astir 5 oregon six months. I deliberation this 1 is special."

Jerry Tuwai of Team Fiji (right) and Napolioni Bolaca of Team Fiji respond connected the last whistle pursuing triumph successful the Rugby Sevens Men's Gold Medal lucifer betwixt New Zealand and Fiji connected time 5 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Getty)

But there'll beryllium nary chaotic celebrations successful the streets crossed the state this time, for the wellness and well-being of everyone.

"A golden medal can't regenerate quality life," Tuwai said.

Relative to its colonisation of little than 1 cardinal people, Fiji's outbreak is presently among the worst successful the world. Fiji reported a grounds 1,285 caller cases successful a regular update connected the eve of the Olympic final. It has reported 193 deaths since the outbreak began successful April.

Still, Tuwai said the ambiance would beryllium brighter for a small portion astatine least.

Jerry Tuwai of Team Fiji reacts connected the last whistle pursuing triumph successful the Rugby Sevens Men's Gold Medal match. (Getty)

"It's existent emotion successful each location successful Fiji. We're good loved," Tuwai said. "I deliberation they'll not beryllium reasoning astir the pandemic now."

The Fijian squad started singing connected the podium erstwhile their anthem played. With the medals astir their necks, their opus turned to hymns.

Rugby is the nationalist athletics successful some Pacific countries. But rugby sevens means much to the Fijians, who hone their instinctive passing and one-handed offloads successful bare-foot games connected beaches and successful villages crossed the islands.

"It's hard to underestimate the effect this has successful Fiji," caput manager Gareth Baber said. "It's thing that's evidently intimately linked to nationalist identity. Succeeding arsenic a tiny federation against the odds, against bigger brothers, it's peculiarly bully for Fiji."

Waisea Nacuqu of Team Fiji (right) celebrates triumph with Kalione Nasoko of Team Fiji during the Rugby Sevens Men's Gold Medal lucifer betwixt New Zealand and Fiji connected time 5 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Getty)

The metallic was an betterment for the New Zealand men's squad aft it missed the podium erstwhile rugby sevens made its Olympic debut astatine the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

"We trained 4 oregon 5 years for this infinitesimal .... we conscionable came up a small short," New Zealand co-captain Tim Mikkelson said, explaining the adjacent squad huddle astatine the end. "It's not casual to marque a last of the Olympic Games. For that moment, we conscionable wanted to congratulate each other."

All the rugby sevens medals astatine the Tokyo Games went to the Southern Hemisphere, with Argentina beating 2016 finalist Britain 17-12 for the bronze. South Africa, the bronze medalist successful Rio, bushed the United States 28-7 successful the playoff for 5th place. Australia bushed Canada to decorativeness seventh.

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Meli Derenalagi and Bolaca Napolioni of Fiji with their golden medals pursuing triumph successful the Men's Rugby Sevens golden medal lucifer betwixt Fiji and New Zealand. (Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Fijians were ever successful beforehand successful the final, conscionable arsenic they were successful Rio, scoring 3 first-half tries to pb 19-12 astatine the break. When Asaeli Tuivuaka raced implicit to people successful the close country with astir 2 minutes remaining, different rubric was assured.

Meli Derenalagi opened the scoring successful the 2nd infinitesimal successful an eerily quiescent stadium, dissimilar the raucous ambiance successful Rio 5 years ago. Fans are banned due to the fact that of the pandemic, but determination were shouts and yells of encouragement from the bench.

Sireli Maqala made it 12-0 soon after, pouncing connected a escaped shot that Andrew Knewstubb was incapable to crushed in-goal.

New Zealand co-captain Scott Curry finished disconnected a wrap-around determination and scored successful the close country to marque it 12-5, but Jiuta Wainiqolo's bustling sideline tally restored Fiji's 12-point buffer approaching halftime.

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Fiji's Waisea Nacuqu celebrates victory. (Getty)

The Fijians were playing with power but conceded aft the halftime siren sounded, with Sione Molia stepping done immoderate bushed defence to interaction down for New Zealand and marque it 19-12 astatine the break.

The New Zealanders stayed wrong touching region until Tuivuaka's effort enactment the effect beyond doubt.

The classification for 9th-12th was completed successful the greeting session, with Kenya beating Ireland 22-0 for 9th and 2016 semifinalist Japan yet getting a triumph to decorativeness disconnected a disappointing run astatine the Tokyo Games — albeit to debar past spot with a 31-19 comeback implicit arch rival South Korea.

Five years aft finishing 4th successful Rio, Japan kicked disconnected the Olympic tourney with a constrictive nonaccomplishment to Fiji. Winger Lote Tuqiri said the prohibition connected spectators due to the fact that of the COVID-19 pandemic and the contention gully — Day 1 games against Fiji and Britain — outgo the big team.

Spectators cheer connected the Fiji players during the golden medal match. (PA Images via Getty Images)

"Seems similar we played our last successful the archetypal game," helium said.

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