If all of the skill, determination, and courage Christine Sinclair has shown in her career could be summed up in a single goal, this is it.
With 73,680 rabid German fans cheering on their side at the opening game of the FIFA World Cup in June 2011, the Canadians competed against it. But Sinclair, never intimidated by the moment, received a free kick near the German net in the 82nd minute.
In a memorable blow, she rolled the ball past the German goalkeeper and silenced the fans in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
What many didn’t know that day was earlier in the game, Sinclair broke her nose after slamming an elbow in the face. She didn’t flinch.
“As soon as it happened I knew my nose was broken,” she said after the game.
“It just crunched.”
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It turned out to be the only goal Canada would score during that tournament. Sinclair had to reset her nose after the game and wore a protective shield for the rest of the event.
Canada lost all three games and there was disappointment. But Sinclair pressed on. Better days came – and with them change.
Throughout many defeats – and many victories recently – Sinclair has always appeared on the pitch for Canada for the biggest, brightest, and most important moments.
Sinclair has been on the Canadian women‘s national team for 21 years. Their 187 goals (most of all national players), 304 international games and what is now the third Olympic medal make Sinclair in a league of their own.
But she never wanted to be in the spotlight.
“I’m not a Rah-Rah leader at all,” she said in 2011. “Actually, I’m a pretty calm person.”
Sinclair has always set a good example.
“Finally arrived at the top of the mountain,” she said after winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
“It’s the best we can do. It’s the best we can do as a national team. Three podiums in a row. We have inspired a lot of children,” she said.
Her size shouldn’t be defined by scoring all these goals, playing all these games and eventually winning a gold medal when the world is watching.
A strong advocate for women in sport, Sinclair wanted to speak about the future of sport in the country shortly after winning the gold medal.
“The next step is that we have a professional league and teams in Canada,” she told CBC Sports.
“I find it unacceptable that the Olympic champions in Canada do not have a professional environment. That is the next task.”
Sinclair’s legacy should be defined by inspiring a nation and women across Canada and around the world to play football.
And showed up when no one was watching.
Sinclair made her national team debut in the 2000 Algarve Cup 21 years ago, when she was only 16 years old.
She scored three goals.
Sinclair, now 38, got her first football experience at the age of four as a member of the Burnaby Burna Bees, the local team. She was addicted.
The list of awards is endless
Six years after her national team debut, Sinclair was named Canada’s best female soccer player. Since then she has won pretty much everything there is to be won: four professional championships with three different teams; the Lou Marsh Trophy; the Bobbie Rosenfeld Prize; inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame; appointed an officer to the Order of Canada; Canadian Player of the Year 14 times.
The list goes on.
But for Christine Sinclair it was never about a gold medal, awards, most goals scored, endless awards, or the limelight.
For the greatest female soccer player who ever came from Canada, it was about a simple love of the game and the inspiration of those around her.
Make no mistake, Sinclair loves to win – and she is finally at the forefront of the sports world. But she was always interested in so much more than just the game.
And every one of her teammates who went onto the pitch with her knew exactly what that meant for Sinclair.
Because of this, Sinclair’s teammates gave her room after their party just days before her golden moment in Japan after beating the US.
Teammates had just cuddled up, danced wildly and soaked up the moment. But when that joyous scene calmed down, Sinclair stayed.
She was lying on the Kashima field. Alone. Taking up the weight of the moment.
“We finally made it,” she said after the game.
Sinclair finally won after losing dozens and tens of battles against the Americans. She has endured more than anyone on the Canadian women’s football program.
It was the brightest and greatest victory of all for her. But it took a lot of losing, searching, and perseverance to get gold.
Sinclair was inspired to play the game at the highest level while watching the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup in the United States.
16 years later she was able to inspire at home when the World Cup was held in Canada.
And who will ever forget that stoppage time penalty against China to bring the Canadians to victory – and to frenzy more than 50,000 fans at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
And now, after all these years, there is again reason to cheer.
Another “where-were-you-when” moment from Christine Sinclair.
Canada’s golden soccer star.