Tears, Kava Flow In Ultimate Fairytale
As we near the communal hall, the horn from Semi’s brother Nemani’s ute echoes around the valley and across the Sigatoka River as he let everyone know the champ has arrived. Nemani is as excited by the whole thing as Semi is humbled .... I slip the sunnie
I’m a sucker for a sporting fairytale. I cried when Emilio Estevez coached his kids to an unlikely win in Mighty Ducks. Quack, quack, quack. When Sanka, his egg and the rest of the Cool Runnings crew had a crack under John Candy, I laughed, then bawled. What troopers. I never stood a chance last week in Fiji alongside a humble Olympic sevens champion named Semi Kunatani.
Returning to his village of Naveyago for the first time since claiming gold for Fiji, Semi welcomed George Gregan, Stephen Hoiles, Tiana Penitani and I along for the ride.
‘Greegs’ is royalty on the island so he rode into the village with Semi, Lucky George was so good at rugby because he’d have been a hack of a jockey. On we went into the tiny town, past Kunatani’s home, which, has no windows, I mean, no glass. A beautiful woman slips her head through the gap and screams ‘Bula,’ while waving a Fijian flag. We yell back and I get goosebumps. It begins to dawn on us all that this will never happen again. Ever. This is Fiji’s first Olympic medal of any kind and Semi has shown his village that they can achieve on the biggest stage there is. As we near the communal hall, the horn from Semi’s brother Nemani’s ute echoes around the valley and across the Sigatoka River as he let Nemani is as excited by the whole thing as Semi is humbled. We arrive at the doors of the communal hall where both Semi and Greegs are swamped. Amid the chaos, five women emerge and embrace the sevens star. Each of them burst into tears as they stroke his face and hug him. Semi lost his mum, Rusila, when he was 15. These are the ladies who loved and raised an Olympic champion.
Tiana starts to well up, so too Hoilesy. I slip the sunnies down across the face, it’s already too much.
Australian rugby legend George Gregan (sitting, left), Semi Kunatani with Sean Maloney (kneeling, right) at Kunatani’s village in Naveyago. Photo: Fox Sports
on horseback. everyone know the champ has arrived. Australian rugby legend George Gregan, Semi Kunatani and villagers of Naveyago. Photo: Fox Sports
Sean Maloney By