Fiji’s claim to sports fame is that it is home to the professional golfer Vijay Singh, also known as “The Big Fijian.” Singh, who grew up in Nadi and is the son of Mohan Singh, an airplane technician who taught golf in his spare time, says of his childhood, “When we were kids we couldn't afford golf balls so we had to make do with coconuts.” This Indo-Fijian has come a long way since his amateur days of playing golf and rugby in Fiji. Singh has won four major championships (most recently the FedEx Cup in 2008) and in 2008 was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Fans of WWF wrestling in the mid-1980s might remember the raw strength and acrobatic skill of the professional Fijian wrestler, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Snuka was the first-ever ECW Heavyweight Champion and is known to have changed the image of WWF with his “high-flyer” style. Donning a headband made of seashells and tropical-looking trunks, Snuka was the ultimate Fijian superstar who became famous for his daring technique of climbing to the top rope of the ring and hurtling down on his opponent.
In addition to Singh and Snuka, Fiji has also produced other renowned athletes, most notably in rugby, Fiji’s most popular sport. Lote Tuqiri, the Australian Wallabies winger, and Sitiveni Sivivatu, the New Zealand’s All Blacks winger, were both born in Suva, Fiji’s capital. Waisale Serevi, the Fiji Sevens Rugby legend, hails from Qarani on the island of Gau. Between 1989 and 2003, Serevi played for Fiji 39 times, scoring a whopping 376 points. After winning the 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens, Serevi took on the role of coach for the Fiji Sevens. He went on to lead the team to an IRBV Sevens Series win that year, a first-time victory for Fiji and a first-time loss for New Zealand.
And speaking of New Zealand: the New Zealand-based actor, Craig Parker, who is most noted for playing Haldir of Lórien in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, was born in 1970 in Suva. Parker left Fiji at a young age with his parents and moved to New Zealand. Says Parker of his move from Fiji, “[It was] a decision I can only put down to a hurried, late night flight and too many gins… Here, the story might very well have ended. Me, doomed to a life of suburban mediocrity.”
Parker is not the only New Zealander with a Fiji emigration story. Anand Satyanand, the Governor General of New Zealand was born and raised in Auckland, but hails from an Indo-Fijian background. Satyanand’s grandparents immigrated to Fiji from India in 1911; they were married on Nukulau Island and settled their family there. Satyanand’s father was a medical doctor in Sigatoka and his mother a nurse from Suva. The two met and married after leaving Fiji and moving to New Zealand. Though Satyanand may be technically of New Zealand nationality, Fiji is not too far from his personal or political life. In an attempt to avert a military coup in Fiji in 2006, Satyanand helped to arrange and facilitate a meeting between the Prime Minister of Fiji, Laisenia Qarase, and Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.