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Tonga medallist admits Fiji gold 'bittersweet'

2016-08-12 08:58
Fiji, celebrating their win (Getty Images)

Nuku'alofa - Fiji's historic first Olympic gold medal, taking the rugby sevens crown in Rio, was a bittersweet moment for Paea Wolfgramm who was thrilled for Fiji but sorry it wasn't his native Tonga.

Until Fiji's proud moment, when they thrashed Great Britain 43-7 in a lop-sided Olympic final, Wolfgramm was the sole Olympic medallist from the South Pacific.

After the final whistle in Rio, his Fijian friends made immediate contact "and asked me to welcome them to the club," chuckled Wolfgramm, who won silver at the 1996 Olympics when outpointed by Wladimir Klitschko in the super heavyweight boxing final.

As much as he wanted it to be a Tongan who followed him to the medal dais, Wolfgramm said he was impressed with Fiji's emphatic performance.

"It was not totally unexpected. I had my money on them that they would win the gold so it wasn't something that I was totally surprised with," he told AFP from Auckland in New Zealand.

"But at the same time it was a bit of a bittersweet moment when you think it's been 20 years and finally been repeated by Fiji with another Olympic medal."

Wolfgramm had hoped his medal-winning performance would have inspired young Tongans to excel, but instead it took five Olympics and a team from Fiji before the South Pacific bagged their second medal.

"I would have loved it to be Tonga, I would have loved it, not a lie, but they've just gone to sleep and it's really disappointing for me," said Wolfgramm who is a sports ambassador for Tonga and a member of the organising committee for the 2019 Pacific Games in Tonga.

"Every Olympics brings back a lot of memories of 20 years ago but it's also bittersweet because I've watched Tonga since 1996 slowly just, you know, get washed away.

"Any potential promise from Atlanta has just slowly been eroded and so I watch it with a little tear in my eye, almost."

Wolfgramm, however, admired the way Fiji had built towards the Olympics and said they had done everything right.

"All those guys know what they are doing, they are in good spirit, you can feel that with the Fijian team they were ready to take the thing by the scruff of the neck and they did, absolutely, worked toward it, unlike me.

"I came out of nowhere and took a medal, but these guys you can tell that for the last 20 years they've been just building toward it.

"I knew they would be right there to make history. They say that history is where opportunity meets preparation and that's exactly what happened here."

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