(ATR) The coach who led Fiji to their historic gold medal in rugby sevens at Rio 2016 says the win can inspire the entire Pacific region in sport and beyond.
Ben Ryan, a former sevens international for England, was speaking at the World Rugby Confex in London where Rio was one of the biggest topics of discussion.
Fiji’s win at the inaugural Olympic rugby sevens competition was the first medal of any for the Pacific nation at any Olympics, and Ryan hoped that it would inspire talent, inside and outside of sport, to flourish in the region.
"Hopefully it shows that with time and resource there’ll be other medals and other talent coming out of the Pacific and in other areas too, because there is a ripple effect; it’s not just consigned to rugby," Ryan said.
"There will be someone out there watching Fiji win a gold medal in Tonga or Samoa and thinking ‘if they can do it coming from a similar background, then so can I’.
"Doesn’t mean they’ll be a rugby player they could be a lawyer, a doctor, or an actor but it just starts to break some glass ceilings in international sport and careers."
Fiji won the gold medal after beating Great Britain in the final 43-7 at Rio’s Deodoro Stadium.
Another aspect of the rugby sevens Olympic competition is that it is helping the women’s game gain more respect in Fiji, with captain Osea Kolinisau saying in London that he’s witnessed first-hand the change in attitudes back home since Rio.
"I think it has put sevens in a different perspective, especially in women’s rugby," Kolinisau said. "The way that Fiji people see women playing rugby it wasn’t the same as the men’s but after the Olympics this changed a lot of mindsets.
"I think fathers and mothers are letting their daughters play rugby now and they’re coming up and asking ‘how can I get my daughter to play rugby now because I want her to be in the Olympics?’ and more athletes changing sports from track to rugby because they may not get to the Olympics on track so they think that maybe now they can in rugby. It’s changed a lot."
Since the end of the Games, Ryan has stepped down as head coach having been in the role since 2013. He is now consulting Fiji’s 15s side as he looks to break into coaching roles in that discipline of rugby.
Written by Christian Radnedgein London
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