Burnaby NewsLeader

BURNABY NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR: Soccer phenom Christine Sinclair hit rock-star status in 2012

Christine Sinclair entered 2012 with a cult-like recognition factor reserved for core and casual followers of Canadian women’s soccer. She exits the year having achieved rock star status in this country.

Earlier this month, Sinclair was not only named Canada’s top female athlete, but also won the Lou Marsh Award as the top athlete overall. It was the first time a soccer player of any gender had won the award, even though the country has produced some pretty good ones along the way.

But it was no contest. Every other potential candidate, including NHL superstars, paled in comparison to Sinclair and her exploits. Needless to say, not even the notorious Central Park snakehead could prevent Sinclair from being a slam dunk in being named the Burnaby NewsLeader Newsmaker of the Year for 2012.

Sinclair’s year began basically in the backyard of Burnaby, where she was raised by father Bill, a top notch player himself, and mother Sandra, whose lineage is from Burnaby’s soccer royalty, the Gant family. She captained Canada during the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament at BC Place to a berth in the 2012 Summer Games in London. It was a much needed boost to the Canadian program because in 2011 the women finished last at the 16-country World Cup in Germany.

The Olympic qualifier was just a warm-up act, though.

Sinclair elevated her stature across Canada with a sublime performance in a losing cause against their fiercest adversary, the United States, in the Olympic semifinals.

The drama of the match mesmerized the country.

Three times Sinclair scored to give Canada the lead.

Three times the Americans tied it, although many Canadians believe the Swedish referee should have received an assist on couple of goals.

Eventually the vaunted Americans wore down their northern neighbours scoring the decisive tally in the dying seconds of overtime and a shootout looming. That didn’t stop Sinclair from firing shots, but this time they were aimed at the sport’s governing body, FIFA, and not U.S. goalie Hope Solo.

Her raw, passionate emotion evoked a response across Canada, as did her spectacular play in the tournament which netted her the Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals, six overall.

Although she didn’t score in the bronze medal victory over France, Sinclair had already won over the hearts of Canadians. Her legendary status in the country seemed to grow when FIFA suspended her for four international games for defending her country.

That warmth has not disappeared.

Everywhere she goes in Canada she gets mobbed, especially by adoring girls.

“It’s been an incredible ride … It’s crazy. I don’t think any of us expected this,” Sinclair told TSN recently.  “To still have it going, I don’t think any of us expected it.

“We’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the past 18 months. We finished dead last at the World Cup in Germany. We were heartbroken, there were veteran players who didn’t know if they wanted to continue. But then [head coach John Herdman] came along and changed everybody’s attitudes to believing we could beat anyone on any given day. And we brought home an Olympic medal. It’s insane.”

Herdman, who joined the team after the 2011 disappointment, already has the Canadian women training for 2015. Since Canada will be the host country the team will not need to qualify for the tournament. But that doesn’t mean they will be sitting back and basking in the glow of their Olympic triumph. There could be more spectacular feats from Burnaby’s best in years to come.

“We don’t want the bronze medal to be a one-time thing,” vowed Sinclair.

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