Fi­jians Can De­liver Again: Naca

‘The map of Fiji got ex­tended to whole of pa­cific af­ter the Olympic tri­umph’

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Rugby sevens Olympic de­but not only pro­pelled the sport’s pop­u­lar­ity but also put is­land na­tion - Fiji - on the world map with their first-ever medal vic­tory at the Rio Sum­mer Games. “It was a mo­ment we will trea­sure for life,” Naca Cawanibuka, who was the gold medal win­ning team’s con­di­tion­ing coach, said while talk­ing to the me­dia ahead of the Emi­rates Air­lines Dubai Rugby Sevens tour­na­ment, which starts to­day. “It was an emo­tional roller coaster ride to be hon­est with you,” his eyes lit up with hap­pi­ness as he spoke about his ex­pe­ri­ence of win­ning the first-ever Olympic gold for Fiji. He laughed and rem­i­nisced a funny mo­ment. “The map of Fiji got ex­tended to whole of Pa­cific af­ter the Olympic tri­umph.” “When we look at it in proper con­text, for me as a Fi­jian, it was a very emo­tional and hum­ble op­por­tu­nity to make a big im­pact, not only on peo­ple back home but ob­vi­ously on the world au­di­ence, putting Fiji there on the (world) map,” said an emo­tional Cawanibuka, who is in Dubai as the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Fiji’s in­terim coach. Talk­ing about the team, he pointed out: “We were re­ally grate­ful that such a small group of men closely bonded to have such a big im­pact.” Ex­plain­ing the emo­tional mo­ments, he added: “The im­ages of the Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston that hit Fiji in Fe­bru­ary, the back­grounds of the play­ers and their fam­i­lies, the trail of his­tory that blazes be­hind them, to be on that plat­form (vic­tory pa­rade), broke us big men down to tears, that was the mo­ment trea­sured for life.”

It wasn’t easy for Fiji to keep play­ers to­gether on is­land to pre­pare for the Rio Games as most of them go to Europe for greener pas­tures. How­ever, Cawanibuka said that some play­ers, due to strong al­le­giance and loy­alty along with the Olympic car­rot hang­ing, stayed back. “We con­tracted a core group of play­ers, so that we en­sure mo­men­tum,” the soft-spo­ken coach said. The boys lived to­gether, trained to­gether for the Olympic glory. Cawanibuka be­lieves that Olympic dream will al­ways re­main for all the Fi­jian play­ers. At the same time, he ac­cepts that it would be a chal­lenge to keep the boys to­gether. “It will be money thing, at some point or the other, boys have fam­i­lies that they need to sup­port, so ob­vi­ously it would be a chal­lenge for us to keep them on the is­land.” He con­cedes that how to keep play­ers back on is­land will be im­por­tant. “Longer we can keep them on the is­land for next few years, I am sure Fiji 7s can de­liver the re­sults again and again.”

For the Dubai 7s con­tests, he pre­dicted some in­ter­est­ing re­sults. “Sevens World Se­ries is very chal­leng­ing and all the teams are equal. And, even with the best coach­ing set up, you can slip up and fall to any team.” He promised that Fi­jian team would be the same un­der any coach. “We will keep that trade­mark and sig­na­ture go­ing.” -The Khaleej Times

Voda­fone Fi­jian 7s cap­tain Osea Kolin­isau with in­terim coach Na­canieli Cawanibuka dur­ing the gym ses­sion in Dubai yes­ter­day.

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