Tokyo Olympics: Black Ferns Sevens gold medal sparks emotional outpouring

From Tokyo to Auckland and further north to Whangarei, there was an outpouring of emotion for the golden moment the Black Ferns Sevens became Olympic champions.

"We’re the best team in the world," said inspirational leader Sarah Hirini after the final whistle. "We’ve got the best players in the world, when you look at that team, it’s like do your own job and everything will happen."

And at Tokyo Stadium, everything did happen. The Ferns were too good for France in Saturday's final, saving their best performance for last.

"An amazing feeling and absolutely grateful for this moment," said star player Gayle Broughton.

Watching on in Whangarei, the proudest sister in New Zealand, Rachel Rakatau beamed with emotion, pride and love, as she watched her country, her favorite team and her sister win gold.

She carried one word with her for the biggest match of her sister’s career.

"Mum," Rakatau told Newshub. "I'm so proud of Sarah and the team.

"We were over in Rio and that was heartbreaking, but this is just amazing."

Their mother tragically died five months ago, but she was front of mind immediately after the Black Ferns Sevens triumph.

"I love you mum, I love you so much," said Hirini. "That one was for you."

Winning Olympic gold was clearly the ultimate tribute to the ultimate mum.

"This means everything," says Rakatau. "It's been a tough time for our family the last five months, so this is fricken awesome.

"She showed heaps of composure in that semi and I think she's had an awesome tournament."

This was a gold medal not just for each of the 12 players lucky enough to wear it around their necks, but for every little girl watching on in New Zealand - to show them they too can be worldbeaters.

"This is for them," said Woodman. "For every kid who aspires to be someone, who’s looked up to someone - not just in rugby, but anywhere - you can achieve anything."

But the Olympic campaign will be the last for understated coach Alan Bunting. The former Chiefs Super Rugby player will step down from the role, choosing to put his family first.

His sacrifice and dedication to this team over the last five years make his departure an emotional one for the playing group.

"He’s been there with us since the beginning," said Tyla Nathan-Wong. "And when he took over, he wanted to make that mark on our culture and to be a culturally led team that loved to turn up to training."

Added Shiray Kaka: "He changed my life, he really did, and I think a lot of the girls can say that too."

Bunting leaves the sevens programme in a far stronger position than he found it and growing the next generation of female stars has been paramount.

He only needs to look at the group he's built to see that inspiration is not hard to find.

"Women's rugby can be something really special and these ladies are leading the way, they’re inspiring," Bunting says.

The future is bright, but the present already golden.