The smile says it all.
At a time when a lot is being said and written about the commitment and passion by certain players to the Manu Samoa and the blue jersey, Commonwealth Youth champion, Sione Young Yen, offers a refreshing perspective.
“We had a tall mountain to climb as we are only a team from Samoa,” he told the Weekend Observer. “But we asked ourselves this, if youths from richer and more developed countries can ace any skill and win gold medals, why can’t we do it? Why can’t kids from Savai’i win it too?”
Well they did.
Sione of Lelepa and Avao Savai’i captained the Samoa Under 18 Sevens team to the Commonwealth Gold medal where they defeated England in the final.
The success of the team has changed Sione’s life. As Samoa marks International Youth Day today, he has a message for all the young people of Samoa.
“Don’t think lowly of yourselves,” he said. “Be positive and work hard. You can achieve anything. That’s how we managed to secure the gold medal.”
Sione still reminisces about the achievement. He is especially proud since four other teammates also come from Savai’i. They are Frank Tato, Fa’amanu Siaosi, Alapesi Siaki and Klein Masoe.
“That was the first surprise was having so many of us from Savaii in the team. Our parents and families were surprised as well. Despite having our hopes and dreams of being ambassadors of Samoa from Savai’i, we didn’t think it would happen so soon.
“But when we were given an opportunity, we did not want to disappoint.”
Sione and his Savai’i teammates come from Vaiola College. With the work of their coach, La’auli Rudy Leavasa, they did it.
“Our first challenge came from our parents and teachers. They warned us not to let it get to our heads.”
They remembered those words when they were in Bahamas and on that field during their matches, he said they could feel the presence of their families and their prayers.
“We talked and shared and we made a promise to ourselves to go for the gold to help ease the pain of rugby public given the situation our country is going through at the moment.”
It was a promise they held on to.
“When we were announced as the winners, we went totally numb. We were just amazed and humbled.”
Sione credited team work for their success. There is also something about having a Samoan heart.
“We trained very hard before we left,” he said.
“In the Bahamas, we always had time to get together and remind ourselves of what we promised ourselves to bring back home.
“By doing that, we trained harder together. Unity was so important and everything we did was to protect that.”
He went on to say that setting goals and the feeling of knowing where you are heading is very important.
“We understood where we were going. We remembered the tapuaiga of Samoa and how much it would mean to our people if we brought home the gold medal.
“We thought about our parents, our families, our Samoa, our big island of Savai’i...those things kept us going.”
Today, Sione acknowledges the tapuaiga.
“When the final whistle was blown, we jumped on that field like we had never jumped before in our lives. We danced as if it was just us on our own in this world with tears in our eyes. We hugged and humbled ourselves before the Lord.”
But Sione said they accept that this just the beginning.
“Now our goal is to make the national teams,” he said. “To do that, we need to work harder. We need to stay humble and continue to take pride in ourselves and the fact that even kids from Savai’i can make a nation proud.”