‘Gin­ger with glasses’ wins Fiji’s top hon­our

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

ENGLISH­MAN Ben Ryan was awarded Fiji’s high­est hon­our yes­ter­day for coach­ing the South Pacific na­tion’s rugby sevens side to a his­toric gold medal at the Rio Olympics.

Tens of thou­sands of Fi­jians cheered and many openly wept as they braved heavy rain to at­tend a vic­tory cer­e­mony in the cap­i­tal Suva with cel­e­bra­tions rolling through a sec­ond day since the team re­turned home.

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama de­clared a public hol­i­day and free buses were pro­vided to take peo­ple to the na­tional sta­dium where Ryan and the play­ers were feted as he­roes.

Ryan, a self-de­scribed “44-yearold gin­ger bloke with glasses” has be­come the most revered per­son in Fiji since he guided the sevens team to a 43-7 hid­ing of Great Bri­tain in the Olympic fi­nal to de­liver Fiji its first Olympic medal.

“In recog­ni­tion of the achieve­ment, it is an hon­our for me that I have this op­por­tu­nity to present the coun­try’s high­est recog­ni­tion medal award to Ben Ryan,” Pres­i­dent Jioji Kon­rote said as the coach was made a Com­pan­ion of the Or­der of Fiji.

The sevens play­ers were each made of­fi­cers of the Or­der of Fiji with the squad mem­bers and coach Ryan also re­ceiv­ing F$30,000 (US$14,700) each.

The crowd roared their ap­proval when Ryan fin­ished a bowl of kava, the tra­di­tional drink taken at cer­e­mo­nial oc­ca­sions in Fiji and he drew even more ap­plause when he thanked the crowd in the na­tive iTaukei lan­guage.

Ryan, whose value as a sevens coach sky­rock­eted after his Olympic suc­cess, has said he will take a short break from the game be­fore de­cid­ing his fu­ture. –

Photo: AFP

Fiji rugby sevens team coach Ben Ryan (cen­tre) waves as the team ride through the cheer­ing crowd in Suva upon ar­rival from Brazil on Au­gust 22.

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