Fewer than 200 women can claim the honour of having played at the top level of football for New Zealand.
G. Rennie Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Gabi Rennie is quickly approaching the point where she can add her name to that select company. The 19-year-old is training hard for her first Football Ferns cap, and she has her sights set on the biggest stage possible when she travels with the New Zealand squad to the Tokyo Olympics next month.
However, both Rennie and Olympic goalie Anna Leat are already part of an even more elite group. They were both on the U17 team that made history for New Zealand sports by placing third at the 2018 World Cup.
This was the first time a New Zealand team, male or female, had advanced to the knockout round of a major FIFA competition.
After two weeks of training together, the Football Ferns announced their Olympic lineup last week. On the other hand, Rennie found out the wonderful news during a private conversation with head coach Tom Sermanni.
At the Olympic squad naming ceremony at The Cloud in Auckland, “He was like, ‘Look, you’ve done really well and you’ve made it,'” remembers Rennie. It was the weirdest sensation ever. In all honesty, I was floored and incredibly psyched.
Right now it’s still Setting in; it feels a bit like a Dream.
It’s amazing to be a part of such a fantastic event, and at the same time, the world seems to be spinning out of control.
After hearing the news, Rennie immediately called her mother, Rachel. “And she just started bawling,” Rennie, who is back in town from his time at Indiana University, where he plays football, explains.
I’ve been working incredibly hard for this for a long time, so it was great to finally be able to inform my family. From the time she was five years old and played on the Waimakariri United team, her dad Gary (shown above) coached her on the football field.
For as long as she can remember, Rennie has wanted to compete in the Olympics. “And a Football Fern has always been my aim,” she said.
After bringing home bronze from the World Cup in Uruguay three years ago, the youthful attacker has every reason to believe that he can achieve even greater things while wearing the New Zealand shirt.
The Under-17 World Cup was a Similarly Mind-Blowing Event.
Rennie, who was instrumental in the young New Zealand attack, says, “That was like a ridiculous high, and coming down from that was very hard.”
Rennie had to miss out on another opportunity when the 2020 U20 World Cup in Costa Rica was first postponed and then cancelled. During the World Cup qualifier in Rarotonga, she captained the New Zealand U20 team and led them to a 3-2 victory over Australia.
The cancellation left her feeling “like in this open abyss,” she says. And it was nerve-wracking to try out for the Ferns, but now that I get the chance to wear the fern again, there’s nothing better.
In the two years prior, she and the Football Ferns had a rocky start to their partnership. As soon as she arrived at her first camp, however, Rennie’s plans had to be changed due to an injury.
“It sucked and was obviously a setback that I tore a ligament in my foot at the camp. But I don’t know that that was such a negative thing in the end,” she admits. After suffering her first serious injury, she missed nearly four months of action.
It forced me to take stock of my situation, and I can say with confidence that I’m far further along now than I was before. Knowing how badly I want it has motivated me to put in the effort necessary to achieve my goals.
She plans to use the chance Presented to her by the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
And I want to play,” Rennie says. That’s really exciting, and I want to work hard to get more playing time. I believe we’re all simply eager to get in and give it our all on the international stage.
Rennie describes the experience of performing among people she had admired for so long as “insane.” She reflects on the shift in perspective: “It’s definitely a change in thinking now looking at them as teammates.”
In contrast, “but they’re all such great girls, so welcoming and so lovely to be around. So far, they have been an incredible source of education for me.
Her Canterbury United Pride teammates Annalie Longo (one of four centurions for the Football Ferns) and Marissa van der Meer (travelling reserve) will also be in Tokyo.
The Football Ferns are currently in camp in Auckland in preparation for Tokyo, where they will be playing in hot and humid conditions.
We’ll either be riding bikes in the sauna or just chilling out for 40 minutes, as Rennie explains. The massive bike workouts that our strength and conditioning coach makes us do are the worst. By the time it’s over, we’re drenched, but in a nice way. The results are satisfying.
The best ever Olympic performance by the Ferns occurred in London in 2012, where they advanced to the semi-finals before losing to eventual champions the United States.
Rennie is Currently a Student at Indiana University and a Football player for the Indiana University Hoosiers when she isn’t Competing for New Zealand.
She’s currently in her second year of college, studying exercise and science, but her first year was shattered by the events of Covid-19.
Prior to the completion of the first semester, Rennie went back to New Zealand and finished her degree online. After returning to New Zealand for the summer break, she was able to return for the second semester.
Rennie helped her home team, Canterbury United Pride, win their third consecutive national women’s premiership title while she was there.
Rennie has been an integral part of all three championship runs, scoring twice in the championship game and contributing to the other two goals. Five years earlier, in her debut season with the team, they also won the national championship.
She’s having a great time in the US, but she’s happy to be back in New Zealand where she can play football.
The game is “very different” out there, according to Rennie. But learning about a new culture has been fascinating, and it has made me love my own home all the more.
Rennie is taking a Flexible Approach to Completing her four-year Degree.
The doors are always open, she explains, and she can check in with herself as she goes.
Rennie appreciated getting to see her family again, even if it was only for a short while due to her football obligations. Since she is returning to Bloomington, Indiana immediately after leaving Tokyo, she will not be able to see them again for some time.
But her family, especially her brothers Liam and Lachlan, are the ones she credits for her success.
Rennie adds, “I couldn’t do all of it without them, whether it be taking me to all the trainings or staying up late or postponing vacations for me.”
They encourage me and tell me I can do it all the time. unconditional support no matter what occurs.