Olympic hero says he was preparing to walk away from Fiji's gold medal defence
Captain Jerry Tuwai has revealed he was ready to walk out on Fiji’s defence of their Olympic Games gold medal in Japan as the impact of six months away from their families during the COVID-19 lockdown hit the players.
Tuwai told Fiji Village he had his bags packed and was about to turn his back on the gold medal defence in Tokyo and he only stayed when he realised that as the most experienced player the rest of the squad looked up to him.
Head coach Gareth Baber, it has transpired, had to give his players a stark choice: stay in camp or give up the chance the play at the Olympics where Fiji successfully defended the gold medal they won in Rio in 2016.
Fiji Rugby Union chief executive officer John O’Conner has confirmed the players, who are now back in Fiji, are about to end their self imposed isolation saying: “The players will come out of their quarantine this week and will be reunited with their families after being away from them for six months.”
After an extended period in camp in Fiji, the squad travelled to Australia for a tournament which saw them having to endure quarantine before they flew to Japan – via Fiji- where they boarded a transport plane that was also carrying frozen fish.
Tuwai said being away from home was difficult for everyone and not just the ones who are married and the only reason he stayed was because of the younger players in the team. The world’s No1 seven player admitted when they first went into camp in April, the squad had no idea that they would be away from their families for so long.
Tuwai said: “That week we came into camp knowing we will be going home on the Friday but on the Wednesday or Thursday the coach told us that we will not be going back to our homes until the Olympics is over. He gave us an option: if any one of us wants to go home and can’t take the journey with us they have the option to leave.
“I was outside and had already packed my bags and was about to leave the camp but I feel for my brothers because they are young boys with a lot of things to look forward to and a big future. I saw them and ( I thought) if I walk out now I am the most experienced player in the team and they look up to me.”
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