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Volcanic islands erupt in joy after Fiji’s rugby gold at Tokyo Olympics

Away from their family for months, the Fijian team had made huge sacrifices in pursuit of Olympic glory even as the Covid-19 wave wreaked havoc back home (Images courtesy: Twitter/@FijiRugby)

For a few minutes on Wednesday night, several members of Fiji's Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) took their minds off Covid response to join the rest of the country in celebrating their country's rugby sevens gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

In a thrilling final, the men from the south Pacific nation beat the All Blacks Sevens, as the New Zealand's rugby team is called, to romp home for their second successive men's Olympic gold.  

As Waisea Nacuqu successfully converted a penalty at the final whistle, the group of volcanic islands erupted in joy.

Just like the players at the Tokyo Stadium, thousands of fans back home were in tears as they danced on the streets till late night in spite of the strict 6 PM to 4 AM covid curfew in place in Viti Levu, the largest island and also home to about 80% of Fiji's total population.

The rugby team's triumph Wednesday – and the ongoing showing by the women's outfit known as Fijiana – has provided the Pacific island nation a rare period of celebration in what has been an otherwise exhausting and depressing last few months.

Battling a deadly Covid wave over the past few months, Fiji has reported 27,427 cases during the outbreak that started in April 2021. There have now been 227 deaths due to Covid-19 in Fiji, 225 of them since April this year.

The morning after fireworks lit up the Fijian sky celebrating the Sevens winning their second successive Olympic gold medal, 1301 new cases were reported at 8 AM today.

Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, who had earlier this month got vaccinated "so that we can get back to the lives we love and play sports, like rugby, soccer, and netball" had been following the rugby team's campaign in Tokyo while managing the massive Covid crisis at home at the same time, allocating funds to hire more doctors, intern nurses, midwives, etc.

"Vinaka, boys –– that win was worth more than Gold. Your love for this game, for each other, and for your country has shown again that when Fijians unite, we can achieve greatness –– no matter what the world throws our way. GO FIJI GO!!!!," he tweeted Wednesday.

Tokyo Olympics 2020

Away from their family for months, the Fijian team had made huge sacrifices in pursuit of Olympic glory even as the Covid-19 wave raged.

The team had been training in bio-secure camps at home and in Australia as one after another, almost all the major sports facilities in the country were turned into Covid-19 care facilities.  

As cases continued to rise alarmingly, several arenas managed by the Fiji Sports Council, including the FMF Gymnasium in Laucala Bay, one of the oldest sports and events indoor venues, were transformed to medical care facilities.

Earlier this month, the country's Ministry of Health and Medical Services had stated that the mortuary of Fiji's largest and oldest hospital, Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital in Suva, is being utilised to full capacity.

Quite fittingly, the rugby team captain Jerry Tuwai labeled the Olympic gold as a "very special" one considering "everything that’s been going on" back home.

"I think it is really loud at home right now. They will not be thinking about the pandemic, they will be celebrating. It is special, but a gold medal can't replace a human life," Tuwai was quoted as saying by Reuters in the post-match press conference in Tokyo. 

The celebrations will continue, hopefully within the bubble, when 'Island of Taveuni' – as Fiji Airways'first Airbus A330 is called – arrives home Thursday night, carrying its heroes from Tokyo.

Tokyo Olympics Fiji Rugby Team

Crew of the special Fiji Airways flight gets ready to welcome the country's gold medal-winning rugby team as they fly back home from Tokyo on Wednesday (Image courtesy: Twitter/FijiAirways)

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