Fiji set for breakout (record-breaking?) Rio 2016 Olympics
Fiji has already qualified at least 30 athletes into the Rio 2016 Olympics, with at least 13 more looking very likely to join the delegation, which sets the Pacific Ocean archipelago for its largest Olympic team ever.
Fiji could also send the largest number of Olympians to a single Games for a nation of fewer than one million people. It could also be favored to earn its first Olympic medal in Rio.
Fiji, perhaps best known at the London 2012 Games for marching in the Parade of Nations while a Bee Gees song played at Olympic Stadium, appears likely to make noise in competition in Rio.
It is arguably the favorite to win the first Olympic men’s rugby tournament since 1924, having topped this past season’s Sevens World Series standings.
Its women’s rugby sevens team will likely qualify for Rio, too (the men already qualified).
Its men’s soccer team qualified for the Rio Games on Sunday, beating Vanuatu in an Oceania qualifier after favored New Zealand was disqualified before a potential final matchup with Fiji (New Zealand is appealing the DQ).
Three-time major champion golfer Vijay Singh, at 52, could be the oldest man in the first Olympic men’s golf tournament since 1904. He is ranked No. 207 and will likely be safely into the Rio Olympics if he’s still in the top 300 on the ranking cutoff date of July 11, 2016.
All that sets up Fiji’s first time qualifying rugby players, soccer players and a golfer into an Olympics -- at least 43 Olympians in all (12 rugby players per team, 18 soccer players and Singh).
In 2012, Fiji, with a population of 890,000, had nine Olympians. Its highest-ever team size at a single Games was 23 at Seoul 1988, according to sports-reference.com.
If Fiji qualifies the aforementioned 43 plus the same number of athletes in sports other than golf, rugby and soccer in 2016 as it did in 2012, it will have 52 Olympians in Rio.
Luxembourg is the only nation with fewer than 1,000,000 people to have 40 or more competitors at a single Olympics, according to OlympStats.com, which reported Luxembourg’s high was 52 in 1960.
In 2012, Fiji tied for 107th among 205 nations for number of Olympians with nine, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon. Three nations with 52 athletes in 2012 (Azerbaijan, Iran, North Korea) tied for 50th among 205 nations.
If Fiji jumps some 50 spots in Olympic delegation size in one Olympiad, that would also be a breakout accomplishment.