Fiji′s first medal is what the Olympic spirit is all about | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 12.08.2016
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Fiji's first medal is what the Olympic spirit is all about

These days it is impossible to avoid hearing about the achievements of Michael Phelps. While all the attention that he attracts is well-deserved, Fiji's men's rugby sevens team actually reflect the true Olympic spirit.

Fiji's men's rugby sevens team are about to take on Great Britain in Rio's Deodoro Stadium in the final on this Thursday evening. The match is significant not only for being the sport's first men's rugby sevens Olympic final, but also because it guarantees the island nation its first ever medal at the Summer Games. Their victory over Japan in the semifinals earlier in the day means that even if they take a hammering from the Brits, they will still bring home the silver.

Defeat is clearly not what their fans have in mind though. A surprising number of Fijians have made the 13,000-kilometer (8,077-mile) journey to Rio, and the country's flag is flying all around the arena. Other members of the country's Olympic team are also in the stands, waiting to watch sporting history being made. A powerful rendition of the national anthem sets the mood; the gold medal that Fiji has been waiting for since it sent five athletes to Melbourne 1956 could now be just 20 minutes away.

What follows is a demolition job. From the opening kick off, Fiji play with the kind of desire and intensity that comes from knowing that you have the chance to do something special. They run faster, tackle harder and pass more precisely than an overwhelmed Great Britain side. When the beleaguered Brits do manage to stop a Fijian in his tracks, there always seems to be another waiting for an offload. The crowd roars on every break, every turnover and, of course, every try. By halftime, there is no doubt that the Fijians are about to be crowned Olympic champions.

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It is clear how much the result means to the fans. They shout themselves hoarse as they wait for the medal presentation; the moment when their 60-year barren run at the Games officially comes to an end. It feels so much more important than watching the United States win their 38th medal of the Rio Olympics.

It's not just Fiji either. The feeling is the same when Xuan Vinh Hoang notches Vietnam's first-ever gold medal in the 10-meter air pistol event. Majlinda Kelmendi's victory in judo was even more emotional. Her country, Kosovo, still faces questions from some quarters over its right to exist, so it came as no surprise when the judoka broke down in tears after claiming Kosovo's first gold medal - at its first Olympic Games.

This is what makes the Olympics special. The Games can be a platform for someone like Kelmendi to make her compatriots proud of their fledgling nation. They are also an opportunity for teams like Fiji's rugby sevens side, who hail from an archipelago of fewer than a million people, to display their excellence on a world stage.

Athletes like Michael Phelps deserve the adoration they receive. But when it comes to the true Olympic sprit, I'll take the Fijians.

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