Olympics-Rugby-Fiji's hardships make gold all the sweeter, says Tuwai

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Rugby Sevens - Men - Gold medal match - New Zealand v Fiji - Tokyo Stadium - Tokyo, Japan - July 28, 2021. Fiji players celebrate after the match. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

TOKYO (Reuters) - Fiji’s gold medal in the Olympic Rugby Sevens was reward for almost five months in camp away from family, which captain Jerry Tuwai admits was so tough he considered walking out.

Fiji defeated New Zealand 27-12 in the final at the Tokyo Stadium on Wednesday, deservedly retaining the title they won in Rio five years ago.

But it was a long road to get there, with bio-secure camps in Fiji, Australia and Japan keeping the players away from loved ones while the COVID-19 pandemic made life back home extremely difficult.

"I think this will be very special to everyone in Fiji with everything that's been going on. We wanted only the win, so this gold medal makes it a very good day for Fiji," Tuwai told reporters.

"It's more special because we've been away from our families for five months. I have kids, so it has been really hard for me.

"I nearly jumped camp. But credit to the coach (Gareth Baber), he dragged me back and bound us together so we can continue to prepare."

Tuwai expects wild celebrations back home, but cautioned that safety should come first.

"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," he said.

Pandemic aside, Tuwai's own journey has been a difficult one, but at least he has something to show for a career devoted to the national game.

"I think back, my Mom and Dad sacrificed a lot to buy me my first pair of boots, even though they were too narrow. Now I have two Olympic gold medals," he said.

(Writing by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond)

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