Olympians inspire kids

Children of Kaku Elementary and Middle School from Oita, Japan during the online cultural exchange program. Picture: FASANOC

Glad to have the opportunity to inspire is how Olympian Cheyenne Rova felt when she was asked to be part of an on-line cultural exchange program with Kaku Elementary and Middle School from Oita, Japan held last week.

The Nadi-based physical and health education teacher, who comes from Vuna, Taveuni, said this was the first time she had been approached to be involved in an online cultural exchange program.

She was grateful to share her experiences from the 2020 Olympic Games held in Japan.

Cheyenne, along with Team Fiji Rugby Sevens Women’s vice-captain, Viniana Riwai, represented the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee’s (FASANOC) Athletes Commission during the online cultural exchange program.

“It was an opportunity to share my experiences and witness some of the cultures of Oita that we could not witness while in Japan because of COVID-19 restrictions,” Rova said. “We enjoyed learning about the school, culture and more on Oita City.

The students prepared themselves so well and shared a lot of their culture and they also asked us questions that we were happy to answer.”

Cheyenne said some of the questions ranged from favourite animals to whether Fiji had a zoo.

“There were also questions on how we balanced being a student and being an athlete.

“I informed them that I was also a teacher and I am humbled to be given the opportunity to represent my country and to inspire others at the Olympic Games.”

Cheyenne informed students that it was possible to achieve greatness through several different avenues including time management.

“Time management is important, especially when, as students, you are juggling school work and pursuing the sport you love.”

Rova told the students that they could achieve anything if they put their minds to it and utilise their time well.

“It is also important that they inspire those around them to achieve what they thought impossible and to be positive no matter what the outcome.”

Japan 2020 Olympics bronze medallist Riwai echoed similar sentiments saying she was honoured to witness more of the culture of Oita, Japan, although it was only through an online cultural exchange program.

“One of the things we could not fully appreciate was the hospitality of the people of Oita mainly because of COVID-19 restrictions, but after our talks with the school students, we appreciated the efforts they took to accommodate us during our stay in Japan,” she said.

Riwai, who comes from Biaugunu, Saqani, spoke on her experience and challenges in playing two male dominated sports.

“I told students of the challenges we faced playing a sport played mostly by boys and men and how we overcame those challenges.

“It was my intention to be an inspiration to other girls and women and show how we can also participate in sports such as rugby and even win an Olympic Games medal.

“Nothing is impossible. We just have to believe in ourselves and work hard to achieve what you put your mind to.”

Oita Prefecture, which was where Team Fiji’s athletes were based for their pre-games training camp is located about 950 kilometres from Tokyo City.

The 2020 Olympic Games was the first for Rova, who has participated in several regional and international events including the Pacific Games and Commonwealth Games. Riwai is a two-time Olympian having participated at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rova is a former student of Nadi Muslim College and graduate from Minnesota State University while Riwai attended Labasa Muslim College before finishing at Suva Sangam School because of sports.

The Olympic Movement, under the leadership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), uses diplomacy to promote the fundamental principles of Olympism and to contribute, through sport, to the promotion of peace, coexistence, tolerance and non-discrimination among countries, communities and ethnicities.

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