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Personal tragedy fuelling Fijian Tuivuaka

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Personal tragedy fuelling Fijian Asaeli Tuivuaka's rise on the sevens circuit

Asaeli Tuivuaka has revealed the personal tragedy fuelling his desire to be part of Fiji’s defence of their Olympic sevens gold medal in Japan next year.

Back in Fiji having helped secure the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title – they edged ahead of USA by winning the final leg in Paris – Tuivuaka is now bidding to be part of the squad taking part in the Pacific Games in Samoa next month.

The 23-year-old, known as The Tank because of his uncompromising power rugby and the success he is achieving, has dedicated his success to close family members he has lost. 

The 5ft 7ins, 15st 11lbs (96kg) player told the FijiSun: “I nearly quit the sport when my brother Mario Senimoli died in 2011 while training with the Tabadamu sevens team. 

“I also could not finish my year 11, so I returned to the village to help my mother (Vitorina Cakaunivalu) in the yaqona farm. Rugby was always something I was good at so I continued playing and I thank God for giving me the talent. 

“My brother also wanted to play for the national sevens team but never got the chance, so I am completing his dream. I always just tried to work the hardest.”

Tuivuaka lost his father Elia Atunaisa in 2005 while he was in year five, providing another inspiration for the forward to make the most of his rugby talents.

He explained: “My brother and father’s deaths really affected me because they were my role models. Nothing is impossible if you work hard. 

“Make use of the rugby talent God has given you and don’t look back. Follow your dreams. That was something my dad and brother taught me and that is one advice I will also give anyone trying to join the sevens team.”

The former Fijian Drua and Fijian Warriors player also paid tribute to his current mentor and uncle, former Fijian sevens captain Setefano Cakau, who was also known for his footwork and fearless running. 

Tuivuaka is taking nothing for granted despite the World Series success. Having had to correct the spelling of his name in recent months, he wants to make sure it appears on the squad sheet when head coach Gareth Baber chooses his next squad.

“My real name is Asaeli Tuivuaka, not Tuivoka. The confusion stemmed from World Series television commentators using the name Tuivoka during the Vancouver leg before switching to Tuivuaka in Singapore. Many have confused my name and posted it up on social media. I was embarrassed when I saw people calling me Tuivoka.”

He added: “I always spoil Jerry (Seremaia Tuwai) and (Alasio) Naduva because they’re both my tauvus from Vanua Levu, but the players know when to be serious and there is an important balance there in that regard. 

“Our coach (Baber) also talks a lot about teamwork. He has been a positive influence on me.”

WATCH: Part one of the two-part RugbyPass documentary series on what the fans can expect in Japan at the World Cup

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Personal tragedy fuelling Fijian Asaeli Tuivuaka's rise on the sevens circuit