In 13 prior Summer Games — and three appearances by lone athletes at the Winter Olympics — Fiji was oh-fer. No medals. Not since becoming an IOC member in the 1950s.
Well, get the trophy case ready because the men’s rugby sevens team is bringing home gold.
Sure, there are other rugby titles already on the Fiji resume, but to win the first gold medal ever handed out for rugby is an overwhelmingly special moment for the rugby-crazed nation.
“I was just thankful to the lord for blessing us and giving us an opportunity to win in a mega-sport arena like the Olympics,” captain Osea Kolinisau told reporters at a news conference that began with the sound of applause.
The island nation of some 900,000 people was one big party Thursday. We can only imagine what it will be like when the team returns with their shiny new medals.
The win was part of an amazing day full of action at the Rio Games. Here are some of the other storylines from Day 6:
Co-golds in swimming
The excitement in the pool wasn’t over after Michael Phelps wowed the crowd with an amazing golden performance in the men’s 200-meter individual medley.
Just as the crowd was settling down from Phelps earning his 22nd gold medal, American Simone Manuel and Canada’s Penny Oleksiak created some Olympic history of their own. The swimmers touched the wall at the same time at the end of the women’s 100-meter freestyle final.
For just the second time in Olympics swimming history, a dead heat.
Two gold medals won; two national anthems played at the podium ceremony.
And Manuel became the first African-American female swimmer to win an individual Olympics event.
Phelps’ win also created some unusual history too with his 13th gold medal in an individual event. If you go all the way back to the beginning of time, or close to it, there was an ancient Greek who competed in the Olympics — Leonidas of Rhodes. He won 12 individual events for which he was awarded some swanky headgear.
Phelps, who took his tally to four gold medals at Rio by winning the 200IM for the fourth consecutive Games, moved ahead of Leonidas, who accomplished his feats more than 2,000 years ago.
If Phelps records are ever broken, it might take another 2,000 years.
One-two punch in gymnastics
Sublime superstar Simone Biles put on an all-time classic show in capturing the women’s individual all-around gymnastics event. That makes it two dominating golds in two tries (her first being a member of the US winning team effort).
But listen to Biles and she’ll try to convince you that she’s just Simone from Texas.
“I’m not a celebrity. I’m just Simone Biles, but it’s amazing to be recognized for all of this success for myself and for team USA,” she said. “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the first Simone Biles.
“To me, I’m just the same Simone. I just have two Olympic gold medals now. I feel like I did my job tonight.”
We have news for you, Simone, you are indeed a celebrity now.
Teammate Aly Raisman earned silver, making up for her disappointment four years ago in London. She finished fourth in that all-around after she lost a tiebreaker.
“Sometimes mistakes are the best things for you,” Raisman told the US gymnastics website. “I think that happened in 2012 for a reason. I went in tonight knowing I was going to get the silver medal because I knew I was going to hit four for four.
“I went in into beam with a little bit of redemption; I made myself a little angry, and that’s the best way to do beam. You hit it really hard.”
It’s in the hole, it’s in the hole!
Great Britain’s Justin Rose had a great tee shot on Thursday as golf returned to the Olympic program.
On the 189-yard fourth hole the Englishman knocked one right at the flag. It took a few hops after landing on the green and rolled right in the cup.
Not that Rose saw it. According to the Los Angeles Times he wasn’t sure what had happened.
“It was either in or it was off the back edge,” Rose said, the newspaper reported. “And the way the reaction was from the few people around the green, we figured it had gone in.”
Rose is fourth heading into the second round, sitting on 67.
He is four shots behind leader Marcus Fraser of Australia.
You kind of expect a judoka at the Olympics to get a black eye every now and then — but just not outside the competition.
Dirk van Tichelt of Belgium got his shiner after getting into a fight with hotel workers on Tuesday. All involved were hauled down to a police station, questioned and released. No word on whether anyone will be charged.
At least van Tichelt will go home with a medal, a bronze he won a day before the Copacabana throw down.
Also Thursday, two boxers accused of sexually assaulting Olympic Village housekeepers were released from jail, according to Rio 2016 Olympic Games executive communications director Mario Andrada. “That does not mean the legal process is over,” he explained.
Moroccan Hassan Saada had already missed his fight but Namibian Jonas Junias was able to make it to his weigh-in and then compete.
“What is overriding is that the justice system in this country has to take its course. I understand (Junias) has been released and he is free to compete and he has not been found guilty of anything yet,” Andrada said.
Junias lost to Frenchman Hassan Amzile.
Gold medal roundup
Winners of the other medal finals Thursday:
Archery, Women’s Individual — Chang Hye-jin, South Korea
Canoe Slalom, Men’s Canoe Double — Slovakia
Canoe Slalom, Women’s Kayak — Maialen Chourraut, Spain
Fencing, Women’s Team Epee — China
Judo, Men’s 100 kilograms — Lukas Krpalek, Czech Republic
Judo, Women’s 78 kilograms — Kayla Harrison, United States
Rowing, Men’s Double Sculls — Croatia
Rowing, Men’s Lightweight Men’s Fours –Switzerland
Rowing, Men’s Quad Sculls — Germany
Rowing, Men’s Pairs — New Zealand
Rowing, Women’s Double Sculls — Poland
Rowing, Women’s Quad Sculls — Germany
Shooting, Women’s 50-meter rifle Three Positions — Barbara Engleder, Germany
Table Tennis, Men’s Singles — Ma Long, China
Track Cycling, Team Sprint — Great Britain