The two-time Olympic champion is a bona fide all-time great
Who is Jerry Tuwai: Ten things you should know about the Fiji Sevens back
Jerry Tuwai is a legendary sevens player from a legendary sevens nation.
The Fijian has defied a tough upbringing and initial rejection to become a transcendental figure in his sport.
Ten things you should know about Jerry Tuwai
1. Seremaia Tuwai Vunisa was born on 23 March 1989. “Jerry” is the Anglicised version of his name.
2. Hailing from Newtown, an impoverished area near Suva, Tuwai’s first experience of rugby came using a plastic bottle for a ball and a roundabout for a pitch.
3. Having prioritised volleyball during his childhood, Tuwai joined Newtown Rugby Club aged 18 before moving to Marist Rugby Club. His performances earned him an invite to the Fiji Sevens squad, but he was cut after one camp as he was deemed too small to play at the top level.
4. He continued playing domestic sevens after this rejection and was recalled to the Fiji set-up by head coach Ben Ryan, who gave him his international debut at the 2014 Gold Coast Sevens. He thrived in his opening World Sevens Series, scoring 20 tries and being named Rookie of the Year.
5. He won consecutive World Sevens Series titles with Fiji in 2015 and 2016. He subsequently captured a third, this time as captain, in the 2018/19 campaign.
6. Tuwai has the words “knife” and “fork” written on all his rugby boots to remind him of the sacrifices his family made for him. As Ryan revealed when speaking on the House of Rugby podcast in 2019, Tuwai’s parents did not eat for a week to save the money for his first pair of boots.
When they gave them to him, they told Tuwai that the boots were his “knife and fork,” and that rugby was how he could provide for his family.
7. He was part of the Fiji squad that won their country’s first Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games. Tuwai scored a crucial try in the quarter-final against New Zealand and also crossed as Great Britain were dismantled in the final.
8. Tuwai’s otherworldly speed, strength and agility were recognised in December 2020 when he was named Men’s Sevens Player of the Decade by World Rugby.
9. Tuwai initially struggled to cope with the fitness and work ethic international rugby demands, but Ryan found his prodigious ability irresistible.
In Sevens Heaven, his book charting, Fiji’s journey to 2016 Olympic gold, Ryan wrote: “Jerry Tuwai was a talent like few others. And a conundrum: from the poorest part of a poor island, riddled with self-doubt and bad habits, but capable of moments of impossible genius. I just had to.”
10. The only surviving member of the 2016 team, Tuwai won his second Olympic gold in 2021, with Fiji winning every match bar one by double figures on their way to another historic triumph.
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