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

Fiji Sun - - Sport -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Fiji

© PressReader. All rights reserved.