Olympics aren’t just about Americans

Trevor Drew

From Katie Ledecky dominating the women’s 800-medley and burying her own world record time, to Ryan Lochte’s strange blue-haired antics, a lot of exciting things happened at last summer’s Rio Olympic Games. While I’m always a fan of keeping track of the United States’ medal count and cheering on the American athletes from the comfort of my couch, sometimes I feel we take our Olympic success for granted.

re-fijiThe most shocking factoid I heard during the Rio games was the fact that U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps has earned more medals than some countries. The fact that one American has more Olympic medals than some countries is the exact reason I love to root for those you would least expect.

The most memorable moment of this year’s games, for me, came from the most unexpected country playing a sport I don’t really understand.

With nothing to watch, I was flipping through channels to see if there was anything I was missing as far as the Olympics went. It was raining that day and the only company I had was an uncle asleep on the couch, so I was bored and ready to watch anything. The only thing on that seemed interesting to watch was rugby.

Now, before this, I had never watched rugby, so my first reaction was shock.

After struggling to grasp the rules, I started to get a better idea of what was going on. Then, I realized that this was the gold medal match and who was playing in it. Great Britain was taking on Fiji for the gold. “Fiji? I’ve never heard of Fiji being in the Olympics,” I said to my snoring uncle.

As I got my first glimpse of Fijian athletes, it started to shock me how good they were. It was nuts.

They weren’t just beating Great Britain, they were pulverizing them. It was almost a shutout, had the British not scored towards the end. Every now and then the sideline camera would pan to the small group of Fiji fans that made the trek to Rio, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of people more excited.

When the final whistle sounded and Fiji’s victory was finally tangible, the team erupted in a slew of emotion. Some were yelling and running, celebrating the win with their team. Others dropped to their knees and looked up to thank whoever it was responsible for the triumph.

The 2016 Fijian men’s rugby team won their nation’s first Olympic gold medal. Watching the reactions from the fans and the players, you could tell this was a huge deal to them.

According to the announcers, huge crowds all over Fiji gathered around television sets speckled across villages to watch their boys get Fiji’s first Olympic medal. It’s easy to root for a team who has been on top consistently, but there was nothing more thrilling than watching Fiji.

After seeing them, you got the sense that they physically needed to win. Even if I’m not an avid rugby follower, I’ve been around the block enough to know when a team deserves a win. And
believe me, Fiji deserved it.