The magnificent 7s

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Rugby Sevens - Men - Medal Ceremony - Tokyo Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - July 28, 2021. Fiji players pray before the match. REUTERS/Phil Noble

What a truly historical and passionate evening it was for our brave and talented players as they stood strong and firm defeating all opponents who tried to lay siege to their gold medal aspirations.

It was an uplifting experience to witness this Olympics rugby 7s event as it unfolded when Fiji went through the entire tournament undefeated, plus going from strength to strength as each game and each day passed.

I was not only happy for the players and the coaching staff, but also for our whole nation as the Olympics gold medal win brought smiles and tears of joy across all our faces.

We all rejoiced in unison after so long and with so much suffering due to the pandemic which is still raging today.

When I look back over those three magical days I have so much respect for each and everyone of the team members who made the trip out to Japan to seize glory for our beloved island nation, Fiji.

It is not easy to be away from family and friends, while you are in quarantine and then just train and sleep during the run up to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

This is what the team had to do while navigating through matches with Australia, Oceania and New Zealand in Queensland, Australia.

Once again winning their games and entertaining us with their unique passion and flair they have for the 7s rugby game.

Thinking of the Olympics competition, there are so many team members I want to highlight as my standout individuals, but I have decided to name four very special people who encompassed what the tournament meant to me.

First is Asaeli Tuivuaka.

What an outstanding player he was on the field, leading from the front throughout the tournament and sacrificing his body for the team.

With not only bone crunching tackles in defense, but power and speed on attack which thrilled the commentators and viewing audience alike.

Next up is Juita Wainiqolo, and what a beautifully balanced player he is.

Graceful and fast on attack, hard and purposeful in defence.

His ability to read the game was second to none and his work ethic on the pitch was outstanding.

Also, what can you say about Fiji’s talisman Jerry Tuwai, now a true legend of 7s rugby winning two gold medals for his country.

A humble and dedicated individual who has risen to the top of his profession and conducted himself just as a true champion and role model should.

Finally, I want to give a huge shout out to our hard working and ever faithful coach Gareth Baber.

A true gentleman of the sport who in some ways had more pressure on him than anyone to bring gold back for Fiji.

Over the years I have got to know Gareth well on a personal basis and there have been times when it has been very tough for him, especially when some of the results have gone against us and also during dips in the 7s teams performances.

Regardless of this, he has showed his true mettle and persevered gaining the confidence of the players as a true leader.

In addition to being a coach to the players, he has been a friend a father figure, a disciplinarian and a mentor when they needed it.

I have met up with Gareth and the entire team many times in Dubai. Hong Kong. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to name a few places and his dedication and desire to see Fiji become successful has been steadfast and unwavering at all times.

He is a true gentleman of the game and always puts the welfare and interests of his players above his while instilling discipline and commitment into the team.

I am elated for all our players who achieved the pinnacle of their Olympic dreams and won the gold for Fiji, but just as important we should give thanks to an individual who never gave up on the players, plus who worked behind the scenes and crafted our success through hard work and dedication.

Gareth Colin Baber, you have made Fiji very proud indeed. God bless you and vinaka!

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