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Fiji’s gold — in fact its first Olympic medal of any kind — came in style as the country’s rugby sevens team thrashed Great Britain 43-7 in the final of the men’s tournament, in a sport in which the nation of just 880,000 people has long excelled but is featuring in the Games for the first time.
Fiji captain Osea Kolinisau led the defending Sevens World Series champions as they ruthlessly tore apart Great Britain, running in five tries in a first half blitz and another two after the break.
“I’m a little bit lost for words. The boys were on another scale of phenomenal,” Fiji’s English coach Ben Ryan said after the match. “They were just stratospheric and they saved the best until last.”
The Fiji players are set to be feted as heroes back home, where fans packed the 15,000-seat National Stadium in the capital Suva to watch the final on a big screen.
“This is the biggest day in Fiji’s history. Everyone is celebrating,” said photographer Feroz Khalil one of those watching at the stadium.
“It was crazy. There were people chanting, crying, tears were flowing. I’m feeling so happy.”
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, in Rio for the games, issued a statement hailing “a wonderful moment in the history of our nation”.
“We have won our first gold medal at a summer Olympic Games and every Fijian is rejoicing at home and around the world,” he said.
Records tumble in the velodrome
There was happier news for Great Britain at the velodrome in the first day of track cycling in these Olympics.
The Great Britain women’s team set a new world record in the team pursuit, clocking in at four minutes and 13.260 seconds in a qualifying round and surpassing the mark of 4:13.683 set by Australia at last year’s world championships.
Moments later, the men’s team claimed the gold medal in the men’s team sprint after a nail-biting final against New Zealand, setting a new world record of their own in the process.
The British trio of Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner clocked 42.440 to beat the Kiwis by a tenth of a second, having been behind until the penultimate time split.
“All of it was a surprise today, genuinely. We surpassed ourselves. Then I thought we could run away with it, but New Zealand gave us a run,” Kenny, who now has four Olympic gold medals to his name, said afterwards.
“We went into the finals with nothing to lose. We left it on the track, and unbelievably it was enough to win the gold.”
Unstoppable Biles claims second Rio gold
Elsewhere, gymnast Simone Biles confirmed her status as an unstoppable force in the sport by winning the individual all-around competition and claiming her second gold at Rio.
An athlete who had been labelled the greatest ever female gymnast, even before she made her Olympic debut, Biles proved that all the hype had not been misplaced as she mopped up the title by a margin of 2.100 points.
Compatriot Aly Raisman claimed silver with a total of 60.098, while Russia’s Aliya Mustafina settled for bronze.
Biles’ triumph made her the fourth successive American to win the title — following the successes of Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas — which is the longest winning streak by a country in the Olympic discipline.
She also became the first woman in 20 years to win back-to-back world and Olympic all around titles.
“No one goes into this thinking they can beat Simone. I’m sure most people don’t go into it thinking they can beat Usain Bolt either. So it’s kind of the same thing,” Raisman said of finishing runner-up.
“We are like sisters. I told her before today, I want you to win and I want second.”
Late on Thursday, their was more triumph for the USA as swimmer Michael Phelps claimed his 22nd Olympic gold medal and his fourth at the Rio Olympics by winning the men’s 200m individual medley for the fourth straight Games on Thursday.
Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, beat 400m individual medley champion Kosuke Hagino into second with Wang Shun of China in third.