It’s become quite a phenomenal celebration in the Olympic Games when a country wins a medal for the very first time ever. The official 2016 Olympics website in fact has listed eight countries that have yet to win a medal since they first joined the Games, but now have a very strong chance to get their first ever here in Rio. One of their predictions, Kosovo, has proven its mettle on August 9 when their judoka Majlinda Kelmendi won her country’s first Olympic medal, and a gold one to boot.
Then, on Thursday August 11, another prediction came true when Fiji’s rugby sevens team replicated Kelmendi’s feat for Kosovo by winning their country’s first, and gold, medal. And they did it by overpowering their former colonists, Great Britain, by a lopsided 43-7 victory that was all but guaranteed before the first half was out.
But it wasn’t really that much of a surprise. Rugby was a favorite sport of the Fijians, who followed it with a fervor that could only be described as religious. Therefore it was seen as fortuitous that Rio 2016 – which happens to be Fiji’s 14 th Olympic participation – marked the debut of rugby sevens as an Olympic event, after traditional 15-man- a-side rugby was phased out since its last appearance at Paris 1924. Fiji had a powerful lineup to send to the games, led by team captain Osea Kolinisau. They then dominated in the initial matchups at their Pool, beating Brazil, Argentina and the United States.
For the medal playoffs, Fiji really flexed their rugby muscle, upsetting the New Zealand All-Black Sevens at the quarterfinals, then Japan at the semis, and finally their whipping of Great Britain at Deodoro Stadium to secure a place of glory: a country winning gold as their first ever Olympic medal.
For supreme irony, the Fiji head coach was a Briton, Ben Ryan, who had been building up the current team for three years prior and thus turned them into the lean mean winning machine they have been at Rio. As the medals were awarded by Britain’s Princess Anne, the Fijians then showcased great humility for their victory by getting on their knees and reverently clapping three times as the princess placed their medals around their necks.
Back in Fiji, the mood was a madness of jubilation, as people danced on the rooftops and on the streets among the traffic in celebration of their team and its milestone win. The Fiji Times deputy sports editor described his fellow countrymen as having stopped all work and were just waiting for the boys to come home so that a national holiday can be proclaimed and the party can begin in earnest. The country had recently been hammered by Cyclone Winston back in February. With their rugby sevens team making history in Rio 2016, it was like they never had a calamity this year.
Photo Credit to www.bbc.com