The Fijiana 7s Fairytale: Creating history at Tokyo2020
Pacific women have made history at this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics, proving that women and girls across the region have what it takes to compete against the world’s best, and win!
The Fijiana Rugby 7s team made a remarkable achievement on 31 July by winning bronze. In doing so, they achieved the first ever medal for a Pacific women’s team competing at the Olympics.
The national side defeated Great Britain 21-12 at Tokyo Stadium to win their first ever medal at an Olympic Games.
They defeated 2016 bronze medallists Canada in their second match and knocked out 2016 Rio gold medallists Australia in the quarterfinals.
They follow in the footsteps of the Fiji men's 7s team which won two gold medals - the first in Rio in 2016 and the second in Tokyo last week.
At home in Fiji, there has been an outpouring of support for the women’s team, including glowing praise from the Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama.
“From 8th place in the Rio Olympics in 2016, to defeating the reigning gold medallists Australia and the bronze medallist in Canada, our Fijiana Olympians have already earned their place on the pedestal of rugby in Fiji — Hail Fijiana!” Prime Minister Bainimarama said.
“We have witnessed a legacy in the making from our Fijiana in Tokyo. Ahead of the Rio Olympics, there were 200 registered women rugby players in Fiji. Now, there are more than 1000.
“With the eyes of the young women of Fiji upon these heroes –– no doubt we'll soon see many thousands more. The best from this team is yet to come.”
Speaking after the bronze medal match against Great Britain, captain Rusila Nagasau said her teammates put their bodies on the line to win bronze.
“Going back home with a bronze is something special, especially when we have not seen our families for the last five months. When we came here our aim was to earn something for our people suffering from COVID19 spreading in Fiji right now.”
The Australian Government proudly supported the Fijiana’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, including by providing much needed high performance training equipment for the team in April 2021.
Through PacificAus Sports, Australia also supported the Fijiana to travel and compete at the PacificAus Sports Oceania Sevens preparation tournament in Townsville in June 2021.
This was the first time in more than 12-months that Fiji’s national teams were able to play in an international competition, with the pandemic impacting their ability to train and prepare for Tokyo 2020.
Speaking from Townsville in June, Fijiana Women’s Rugby Sevens Manager Vela Naucukidi said the fact they were able to come to Australia to prepare for the Olympics meant so much to the players.
“A big Vinaka vakalevu to DFAT for making it happen and supporting us financially for this to happen,” Vela said.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle for any athlete in the world. Whether you are an athlete, or an official, it’s the pinnacle of your career in sports.”
“It’s a big publicity for us, for women’s rugby and pushing those boundaries. That we are here to stay and that we can also play rugby.
“We’ve been in the shadow of the men’s team for so long and this will also push for the numbers to increase, for more girls to come and join us. Not only for players, but for officials and coaches, to be a part of this journey.”
Jennifer Wainiqolo, Fijiana Women’s Rugby Seven Physiotherapist said the support from PacificAus Sports had been incredible.
“It’s been more than a year since we’ve had a competition and we’ve had a lot of players come through our development system and this is their first international competition, so for them to be given an opportunity like this, we’re very grateful.”
“If it wasn’t for that support, we’d be in Fiji at the moment, in the middle of a pandemic probably been unable to train or participate in any competitions, so we’re overwhelmed.”
Through PacificAus Sports, the Australian Government and Australian Olympic Committee supported over 170 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from eleven Pacific nations to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Through their own hard work and dedication, 82 of these athletes earned places in their national Olympic teams – almost half of which are women.
The DFAT partnership with the AOC is supporting athletes from the Pacific Island nations of Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu to secure a spot on their respective Olympic Games’ teams.
Paralympians from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji will represent their countries at the Paralympic Games, 24 August – 5 September.