New Zealand's Rugby Team Celebrates Win With Emotional Haka Dance

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New Zealand celebrated winning the gold medal in women’s Olympic Rugby 7s with an evocative and "goosebump"-inducing version of the haka.

On Saturday, the Black Ferns team took on France in the final at the Summer Games in Tokyo and, after winning 26-12, performed their version of the haka called "Ko Uhia Mai," or "Let It Be Known."

Captain Sarah Hirini told reporters that the win was "just pure joy."

 "I just think about everything that we've had to do to get to this moment. I thought about all the people back home who have helped us, also the players who trained hard but missed out on getting here," she said, according to NBC. "To win this is pretty crazy and it’s something where you look at your teammates and think, 'We finally did it. We've done it for New Zealand.'"

Well-known now for being performed by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, the haka was first created and performed by Māori tribes as a war dance and has since evolved to become a ceremonial dance. Often performed at weddings or other celebratory events, the dance is known for its exaggerated facial expressions, emotional chants, and emphatic movements.

This particular haka, "Ko Uhia Mai," was reportedly "composed for the team by respected Maori rugby leader Te Whetu Tipiwai" and, according to the All Blacks' YouTube channel, it "speaks of wāhine uniting for strength, regardless of where they come from, to overcome the challenges that lay in front of them." 

Hirini also shared that the Black Ferns' win this time around was fueled by an ethos born from their loss to Australia during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She told NBC that the disappointment from that game prompted coach Allan Bunting to want to "create a culture where you can be yourself, where you can be free and be really good people as well."

"I think over the last five years we have managed to do that," she shared. "It’s a pretty special group to be part of, where there is a genuine love for each other. I am sure you'll see when we get out of quarantine (in New Zealand) that we'll all continue to hang out together."


This post is part of a series covering the talented female athletes competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Stay up to date on their latest achievements and watch them go for gold here

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Rose Low

Rose Low is a writer based in New York, with a background in social media strategy and reporting. She has a Masters from NYU and a love for romantic comedies. See Full Bio

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