After winning back-to-back Bronze medals in 2012 and 2016 the Canadian women’s national team mantra leading up to and throughout the entire Olympics has been “Change the color of the medal.” Under the guidance of new manager, Bev Priestman, and with a good balance of youth and experience in the squad, bringing that mantra to life is more of reality than ever.
Mission accomplished: bringing home gold
And the undisputed leader, and greatest product ever, of the Canadian women’s program, Christine Sinclair, is giving everything to make that happen. While her presence on the field may be different than in years past, her contributions to the team, and their future is clearer than ever. In 2012, she was the dominant player in the tournament, winning a Bronze medal, the Golden Boot, and contributing all three goals in their semifinal loss to the United States. In 2016, she continued to be the focal point of the Canadian attack, while leading the team to yet another Bronze medal. Now in Tokyo, she is still the spiritual leader of the team that she always has been, but now we are seeing the passing of the torch to the next generation of Canadian women’s soccer stars. After missing her penalty against Brazil in the quarterfinals, a rare occurrence in her career, Christine took it upon herself to pass on the duties to Jessie Fleming, the next rising star. Watching Canada play Sweden in the Olympic Final this morning, Christine and the team have already come good on their goal, but now take home the ultimate desire – winning gold.
It goes without saying that Sinclair is an icon in Canada. Her massive contributions on the field, 187 goals in 304 appearances for Canada, put her at the top of the game. Her 187 goals are the most by any international player, men or women. And her 304 appearances for Canada, would have translated to roughly 450 appearances if she played for the United States. She’s won numerous scoring titles, multiple NWSL titles, and will go down as one of the best to ever play the women’s game. Her on-field achievements are only matched by who she is off the field. She’s been team captain for over a decade, a mentor for countless younger players, and referred to by many as “their favorite teammate ever.”
None of these stats or information is new for those of us who know Sinclair or have followed her career, but they certainly bear repeating for perspective purposes. I had the privilege of playing at the highest level and understand first-hand the sacrifices required to get here. It would be impressive for her to achieve these stats as a player on one of the historically top teams, such as Brazil, Sweden, or the USA. But to have done this with a perennial underdog team, searching for their first gold medal*, highlights just how much she has carried the Canadian program, and for just how long. And to do it with the incredible humility and grace she has shown throughout her career, should remind us of how lucky we are to be witnessing a player of this caliber, in real time.
*Canada won their first gold medal, defeating Sweden on penalties 4-3.
U.S. show resiliency in bringing home bronze
As well, a huge congratulations to Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, AD Franch and Lindsey Horan from the U.S. team on their bronze medal win. It was not the tournament the team had hoped for or expected, but the resiliency shown to bounce back from a devastating loss to claim the Bronze is remarkable.
And a special shoutout to AD. The mental fortitude required to be ready at any moment at this level cannot be understated nor should it go unnoticed. Kudos to you.
Takeaways from Tokyo
What an amazing, and wild ride this tournament has been. There’s a new World Champion, and a passing of the torch for those Canadians. In my opinion, it only signals great things ahead for women’s soccer.