Double Olympic sevens champion Risi Pouri-Lane's rugby career on the rise

Risi Pouri-Lane has represented NZ in three sports, but she's found her true calling in sevens. As the Black Ferns prepare to rejoin the World Series, the young playmaker from Motueka has already made sevens history.

She’s just 21, but Risaleaana Pouri-Lane already holds a rare Olympic record.

Risi, as she’s best known, captained the New Zealand sevens team to gold at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.

And in August this year, she was a valuable team member of the Black Ferns Sevens at the Tokyo Olympics, who also won gold.

This outstanding accomplishment makes Pouri-Lane, Olympian #1477, the only New Zealander to have won a gold medal at both a youth and summer Olympics.

And this young woman, with her humble confidence and calm presence, takes it all in her stride. “For me, winning these accolades are bonuses to what I do. I play rugby because I love playing it. I feel like the rewards are when that little kid comes up to me and is inspired in some way,” she says.

“Knowing that someone has just decided to play rugby for the first time in their life because of me, or the Black Ferns Sevens as a whole, that's what fills my heart.”

And that’s not all that makes Pouri-Lane so exceptional. The professional sevens player has also represented New Zealand in two other sports - judo and touch.

Sport is in her blood. Her father, Kevin, was a New Zealand age-group wrestler, and her mother, Lealofi, was a body sculptor.

Her older sister, Keilamarita, has represented Samoa in rugby sevens, as well as playing rugby for Canterbury before being contracted to play in Japan for three years.

Born in Auburn, Sydney, Pouri-Lane left with her family when they decided to return to New Zealand when she was three years old, settling in the small South Island town of Motueka.

Pouri-Lane was a 16-year-old schoolgirl when she sat on her bed and devised a plan to get to the Olympics to play sevens. It was a driving force for her, and she documented her thoughts in colourful word bubbles with clear goals and inspirational affirmations, which she proudly shows me.

The goals, along with her academic pursuits, included making the Black Ferns development squad by 2018 and the Black Ferns Sevens for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics.

She also wrote in her plan: “Do heaps of speed, agility, fitness and power work”. And in bright red large writing, the ultimate sacrifice: “No Maccas for as long as possible.”

Her first goal was soon realised, selected for the New Zealand sevens development squad in 2017 when she was just 16, playing in Japan and Australia.

“I was still in school during that time, so I had to juggle my schoolwork and make sure I was still passing my tests. But at the same time, training and performing to the best of my ability,” she says.

Joining the Black Ferns Sevens for their Commonwealth Games debut on the Gold Coast in April 2018 was a highlight. On finals day, as 13th player, she was doing her duty laying out the game jerseys for the team, when she got told to pull on a jersey herself.