Team of the Month: Fiji's Rugby Sevens Team
Congratulations to Fiji's Rugby Sevens team, IWGA Athletes of the Month for August 2016. The squad won the final of the Olympic tournament at the Deodoro Stadium in Rio by thrashing Great Britain 43-7. Experts said the final was one of the best rugby matches ever played. It was the first time that Fiji had won an Olympic medal of any color. And it was the first time that Rugby had been played at the Olympics since 1924. Before being accepted for the Olympics, Rugby Sevens was on the program of The World Games.
Fiji won three of four tournaments at TWG. The team grabbed Gold in 2001 Akita/Japan, 2005 Duisburg/Germany and 2009 Kaohsiung/Chinese Taipei. Winning the final in Rio did not come as a surprise. The team from Fiji led by Captain Osea Kolinisau and their British coach Ben Ryan performed in Rio in a way that aroused great enthusiasm amongst the new spectators for this sport, recently added to the Olympic program. According to the Washington Post, coach Ben Ryan calls them the “Harlem Globetrotters of rugby”.
The residents of the South Pacific Ocean island celebrated their team as heroes. "We knew it was going to be crazy but not this crazy," Fiji's rugby sevens Captain Osea Kolinisau was cited on CNN as saying as the squad was welcomed home after returning from Rio. Thousands lined the streets as the players arrived, and cheered for the Gold medalists. Rugby, they admitted, was more than a sport for them - it was a kind of religion.
Rugby is one of the sports that made it from The World Games (back) to the Olympics. It was part of the TWG program from 2001 to 2013. World Rugby is still one of 37 international member federations of the International World Games Association.