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Fiji PM wins international athletics medal, at 75

Fiji's Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka finished third for his age group in the shot put at the Oceania Athletics Championships in Suva (Saeed KHAN)
Fiji's Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka finished third for his age group in the shot put at the Oceania Athletics Championships in Suva (Saeed KHAN)

Fiji's prime minister wound back the clock on Wednesday by winning a bronze medal at an international athletics championships, aged 75.

Sitiveni Rabuka, who competed for Fiji at both rugby and athletics in his youth, finished on the podium for his age category in the shot put at the Oceania championships held in Suva.

World leaders taking part in sports events is nothing new, but it is rare for one to walk away with a medal from an international competition.

Rabuka earned his bronze with a throw of 7.09 metres to finish behind two Australian rivals in the 75-79 category for the Oceania region.

"Even at 75, I hope to inspire the younger generation to develop a habit of keeping fit and staying healthy," he posted on his Facebook page.

"It was indeed a morale booster for me," Rabuka added, alongside a picture of him holding the medal.

The septuagenarian had previously missed another medal on Monday, by finishing fourth for his age in the discus.

It's 50 years since the politician represented Fiji in the hammer throw, shot put, discus and decathlon at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch.

He also scrummed down as a prop forward for the national rugby team.

A coup-maker turned politician, Rabuka is an ex-soldier who returned to the premiership in 2022 after a 23-year hiatus.

The former lieutenant colonel led two coups in 1987, earning the nickname "Rambo" by seizing power after troops took over parliament on his signal.

He retired from the military to enter politics, taking his no-nonsense style of command from the parade ground to parliament.

He was elected prime minister in 1992 and held power until he was defeated at the 1999 polls.

Rabuka returned to office as head of the coalition government following elections in December 2022.

ryj/arb/rsc