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Sarah Hirini dedicated the Black Ferns Sevens gold medal win to her late mum Ronnie.
After experiencing the high of winning Olympic gold and the low of suddenly losing her mother, the Black Ferns Sevens captain is making the most of her MIQ-enforced breather.
Speaking from her central Auckland hotel room after being allowed outside for 45 minutes of fresh air on Sunday, Sarah Hirini said it was still hard expressing how she felt about last weekend’s victory.
“I’m really happy and I’m pretty content. I’ve never been able to relax this much in my life.”
After claiming silver in 2016 at the Rio Olympics, the Black Ferns Sevens team went one better in Japan with their win over France in the final, after a closely fought semi-final wn over Fiji.
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It was a win Manawatū rugby stalwart Hirini, who now lives in Tauranga, said was made more special for the joy it brought her family.
It’s been a tough year for them, after the sudden loss of her mother, Ronnie Goss, in March.
“I love you, mum. I love you so much. That one was for you and I am just so grateful to be part of the best team in the world,” she told Sky Sport straight after the final win.
On Sunday, she told Stuff the loss was one of the hardest things she and her family had gone through.
“Going to the Olympics was actually a really hard decision. It was quite tough for me to leave my family and actually train and play. It takes a lot out of you.”
Covid-19 meant families couldn’t be on hand to watch. If not for the pandemic Goss would have likely been in Japan, cheering on her daughter.
“She came to everything, pretty much. She would surprise me in the south of France. She’s been to Commonwealth Games and world cups.
“I knew that it made her happy, me playing. It was pretty special to be able to win a gold medal. It was really nice to win for her and it was nice to win for my family. It was nice to see a smile on my dad’s face.”
Hirini leaves MIQ on Monday next week and will head home for a break and time with her family.
Last week she watched as may Olympic events as she could, and also on Friday caught the Manawatū Cyclones’ win over Hawke’s Bay.
Hirini’s sister Rachael Rakatau is co-captain of the Cylones this year and the pair have been talking tactics.
As for her own rugby, Hirini said the World Sevens Series was scheduled to happen later in the year in Dubai and South Africa, so the Black Ferns would prepare for that ahead of a massive 2022 for women’s rugby.
The Olympics started on a special note for Hirini too. The 28-year-old was a flag bearer for New Zealand at the opening ceremony, alongside boxer David Nyika.
“It was one of the most special things I’ve ever done. To carry the flag for your country for me would be one of the highlights of my life.”
Hirini said the whole experience in Japan was special and the hosts did an amazing job.
The sevens players were kept in their own bubble, but that meant there were no distractions and the Black Ferns could concentrate on the job.