SPORTS

We Can Make 2019 Our Own

 The Fiji Airways Flying Fijians 21-14 win over France was a litmus test which Fiji passed with flying colours. The win was also proof that Fiji can punch above its
05 Jan 2019 10:44
We Can Make 2019 Our Own
Sprinter and national 100m and 200m record-holder Banuve Tabakaucoro. Photo: Simione Haravanua
  •  The Fiji Airways Flying Fijians 21-14 win over France was a litmus test which Fiji passed with flying colours. The win was also proof that Fiji can punch above its weight in the Land of the Rising Sun
  • After the high of the Rio Olympics gold medal win, a dip was to be expected. Coach Gareth Baber was unlucky not to secure the last World Sevens Series in Paris last year. We are almost in pole position after two rounds and this is time for Baber and his men to strike
  •    Athletics Fiji has been boosted by the return of sprinter and national 100m and 200m record-holder Banuve Tabakaucoro. Athletics has been the main source of medals for Team Fiji in the past and the sport will be out to improve their haul in Samoa

It’s going to be a busy, exciting and challenging year for sports in 2019.

The New Year starts as an empty slate with possibilities to look forward to and challenges to overcome.

For athletes and coaches, it is a time to reflect on the achievements of 2018 and set goals for the year ahead.

The challenges that lie in wait will require dedication and hard work to overcome, two attributes crucial in all sports.

Fiji will participate in some major sporting events in 2019, namely the Japan Rugby World Cup, the Pacific Games in Samoa and the ongoing World Sevens Series, which is also a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

With expectations riding high, Fijian athletes will need to maintain composure throughout the hectic year and focus on the task of achieving success for the country.

The heroic rugby sevens Olympic gold medal win in 2016 is proof how far dedication and hard work can take a Fijian team.

This despite the many limitations we face as a small developing country with funding limitations.

Japan RWC 2019

In 15s rugby, the Fiji Airways Flying Fijians’ 21-14 win against France in November has raised expectations ahead of September’s World Cup.

Fiji won one match at the last World Cup in England, against lowly-rated Uruguay, failing to qualify from a group that included England, Wales and Australia.

Playing against three tier-one nations within a span of two weeks was never going to be easy and the team deserves praise for performing gallantly against superior opposition.

In Japan, John McKee’s side will meet the same teams in pool play, minus England, with Georgia replacing them in Pool D of the competition.

While the historic win against France was an indication of the team’s qualities, McKee will be under no illusions about Fiji’s chances in Japan.

The Kiwi knows the work will be cut out for us, and that Fiji will have to beat at least one tier-one nation to make it out of pool play in Japan.

Places in McKee’s team are still open, as preparations for the July-August tests begin.

The France game was a litmus test which Fiji passed flying colours, even though it came two weeks after a 54-17 loss to Scotland in Murrayfield.

The France win was also proof Fiji can punch above its weight in the Land of the Rising Sun.

World Sevens Series

Gareth Baber’s Fiji Airways 7s team are on an upward trajectory in the World Sevens Series.

After a poor start in the deserts of Dubai, the team made amends when they bounced back to claim honours in Cape Town a week later.

Fiji, with 35 points, sits on third place on the World Series standings, three behind leaders USA.

The Hamilton and Sydney legs will be crucial for Baber, who has struggled with his players’ discipline both on and off the pitch since the start of the season.

The team copped six yellows and one red card in the first cluster, the highest among the top five teams in the circuit.

Critics are also quick to point out the team’s lack of consistency in the last circuit, winning one tournament brilliantly but collapsing at the next.

Perhaps the critics are too harsh in wanting instant results.

After the high of the Rio Olympics gold medal win, a dip was to be expected, given the tremendous effort that went into that campaign.

It was draining, and time is needed to recover, recuperate and re-build.

Baber was unlucky not to secure the 2017-2018 series in Paris in and will be looking to go one better this time around.

Fiji has not won the overall series since Englishman Ben Ryan’s team did it in the 2015-2016 season, and Baber will be hungry for a win this year.

Samoa Pacific Games

Team Fiji will have to step up in Apia if it has any chance of winning the Pacific Games for first time since 2003.

There are plans to take our largest contingent yet to the Samoan Games, meaning the team’s progress will be closely scrutinised.

Athletics Fiji has been boosted by the return of sprinter and national 100m and 200m record-holder Banuve Tabakaucoro.

Athletics has been the main source of medals for Team Fiji in the past and the sport will be out to improve their haul in Samoa.

The Weightlifting Fiji saga involving some of its top Levuka-based athletes continues in a deadlock, with no solution in sight.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Eileen Cikamatana, and others, refuse to train under new Iranian coach and former 2000 Summer Olympic Games gold medallist, Hossein Tavakoli.

While Weightlifting Fiji has gone on a recruitment drive, medal prospects in Samoa are low given that most of the team is now largely made-up of newcomers.

This obvious setback will require other federations to step up and fill the medal gap left behind by the Levuka lifters.

A lot will be riding on Team Fiji’s performance in Samoa, as it prepares to compete against (an expected) 23 other nations.

Edited by Osea Bola

Feedback:  sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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