Social media helps Black Ferns Sevens relax in Tokyo

10:53 am on 28 July 2021

Something called 'TikTok' and colouring-in books may not sound like key cogs of Olympic success.

Stacey Fluhler takes a selfie of family and friends.

Stacey Fluhler Photo: PHOTOSPORT

But, for the Black Ferns sevens team, those off-field elements are proving part of the recipe as they prepare to go for Games gold in Tokyo.

The reigning world champions, and World Series champions, begin their second Olympic campaign on Thursday.

Head coach Allan Bunting said the squad have enjoyed their first few days in the Games Village as they count down to their opener against Kenya.

"It's been good to see those alpha athletes with that look in their eye, ready to compete. It's exciting, and there's never a dull moment in our team.

"There's Tik Toks, there's colouring in, there's all sorts of things. I get to room next to Gossy (captain Sarah Hirini) and all the ladies, so I can hear them enjoying themselves."

Hirini agreed.

Despite the weight of expectation on the team to go one better than the silver they collected at the Rio 2016 Games, the New Zealand skipper felt the team were adept at dealing with it.

"Once we step off the field, we're pretty good at switching off...

"I'm probably more in the colouring-in group than the Tik Toks, but we probably expected the Village and our apartments to be a lot more locked down than they are.

"Still being able to mingle amongst our team has been really important."

Not that they are immune to pressure, or the enormity of an Olympics.

Michaela Blyde is an established star in the side, but five years ago in Rio she was a travelling reserve alongside team-mate Shiray Kaka.

Blyde said her first time in the Games Village had been exciting but taken some getting used to.

"I'm very grateful for this opportunity and, to be honest, I've been excited for last five or six months of training, so I'm really itching to get out on the field.

"Personally, it's been a little bit of a challenge for me mentally. I've been constantly nervous, constantly overwhelmed with everything that's going on.

"Making sure that I have time to myself to just settle down and let all these feelings and nerves sink in [has been important], so come game day it's game mode and not a distraction."

The Village, though, had definitely been an eye-opener.

Blyde said there were plenty of interesting sights to see.

Shiray Kaka and Michaela Blyde.
Black Ferns Sevens.

Shiray Kaka and Michaela Blyde Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"Probably the seven-foot-tall athletes that make me feel like a dwarf. That's been quite impressive, to think that human beings can be that massive...

"And yeah, the food hall is quite overwhelming. You've got all these people trying to get in, eat food and get out. It's almost like it's a bit of a mad rush."

And watching the wide-eyed Olympic newbies in the squad had been enjoyable for those at their second Games.

Tyla Nathan-Wong said it had been exciting seeing the likes of Blyde and Kaka experience the world's biggest sporting event for the first time.

"It just takes us back five years, when it was our first time [at the Olympics].

"I had exactly the same feeling in Rio. Walking around the Village and you could see all these different athletes and we started playing guess the sport in the dining hall.

"It's especially cool for Michaela and Sharay ... just seeing their excitement for something like getting their accreditation, it was really cool and that just makes you more excited to be here, too."