August 13, 2021
Chris Cracknell, who coached Fijiana 7s at the 2016 Rio Olympics said the side's historic bronze win at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is a fantastic achievement and reward for their hard work in the last five years.
Crackneil told World Rugby that the achievement in Tokyo Olympics just shows how much things have moved on, so to speak, from a couple of years ago when Fijiana players wouldn't have been seeing those rewards.
“It's inspirational, not only for the kids back on the island, but if you look at the depth of the story, it could be inspirational for the girls around the globe.”
“If you look at their stories and their backgrounds and where they've come from, what they've overcome and why they're pushing themselves, it’s an amazing story.”
Captain Rusila Nagasau who started playing rugby in 2007 after being invited to a training session by a friend, has spoken previously about the “comments” she and others were subjected to for daring to play what was considered a man’s game.
Cracknell had travelled to Fiji as part of Ben Ryan’s coaching set-up with Fiji’s men, and having accepted to work as director of rugby for the women alongside that role in 2015, was confronted by those negative attitudes.
“My second training session we held down at the university because at that point we hadn't had the opportunity to get the girls into a full-time environment.”
“The girls were heckled throughout the entire hour-long session that we held for them. Now at the time I didn't speak particularly fluent Fijian, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to work out what was being said.”
Cracknell said the attitude of the side has always been positive and they have proven critics wrong with the win.
“It showed the attitude of the girls in that they just used that to spur them on, and they just wanted to always prove people wrong the entire time, because everyone measured the boys as the shining light and the girls wanted to emulate them.”
“But, at the same time, wanted to put a marker out for themselves and thus change the perception of women and female athletes in the country,” he added.
By Romeka Romena