The accolades have poured in since Christine Sinclair’s stirring performance at the 2012 London Olympics, but now Canada’s top female soccer player will really be a star.
The Canadian team captain who held the country spellbound as she scored three times against the powerhouse United States in the Olympic soccer semifinals, and then made an impassioned denunciation of some questionable refereeing, is to be honoured with a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
The 30-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., will be inducted during the Walk of Fame festival in Toronto on Saturday. The ceremony will be shown on Global TV on Oct. 27.
“This is one thing that has definitely not sunk in,” Sinclair said in a recent interview. “I can’t imagine it.
“You look at the people involved or who are inducted and I can’t believe I’m even associated with it.”
It is only the latest honour for the gifted striker, who took the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as The Canadian Press female athlete of the year and won the Lou Marsh Award as Canadian athlete of 2012.
She had been one of the world’s best female players for more than a decade, but it took her Olympic performance at Old Trafford, the famous home of Manchester United, to launch her to national stardom.
Heavy underdogs to the Americans, Sinclair played perhaps the game of her career, scoring three times to give Canada a 3-2 lead.
Then Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen made an almost unheard-of call against Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod for time-wasting, giving the U.S. a free kick inside the penalty area. Then came another dubious call of a penalty shot because the free kick hit a defender’s arm from point blank.
The Americans tied the game and then got the game winner in extra time.
Canadian fans were outraged at what they felt was biased officiating, and Sinclair voiced their frustration in an emotional on-field TV interview after the match in which she said the team felt “cheated” out of a victory by the ref.
Unfazed by the controversy, the Canadian team bounced back to beat France in the bronze medal game.
Despite not winning gold, Sinclair was the easy choice to be Canada’s flag-bearer at the Olympic closing ceremonies.
She was later given a four-game suspension and fined an undisclosed amount by FIFA for “misconduct.”
More than a year later, the anger has subsided even if Sinclair’s opinions haven’t changed. It was part of a highly intense, emotional match against the team’s biggest rival.
“I don’t think the ref was the greatest ref we ever had, but at the end of the day, we gave up four goals in the semifinals of the Olympics,” she said. “You’re not going to win very often doing that.”
The extent to which Sinclair’s and the team’s performance at the Games had grabbed national attention came the first time the national women’s team played at home after the Games.
A crowd of 22,450 — a record for BMO Field in Toronto — turned out for the rematch with the No. 1 ranked Americans in a so-called friendly match in June. Although the U.S. won 3-0, fans counted out the seconds each time the American goalie held the ball and generally let both teams know that nothing was forgotten.
“That was incredible,” said Sinclair. “The result wasn’t what we wanted, but you could tell something bigger was going on.
“The fans were into it. When I was growing up, you didn’t know there was a women’s national team. Now girls grow up dreaming of playing for Canada.”
The team is hoping to ride that emotion into 2015, when Canada will play host to the women’s World Cup.
Sinclair is by far Canada’s most prolific scorer, with 145 career international goals. That ranks third all-time behind Americans Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm.
When not playing for the national team, Sinclair plays pro soccer. She won a championship with Western New York in the defunct Women’s Professional League in 2001, but moved to the Portland Thorns for the Inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season this year.
She scored a goal as Portland won 2-0 in the league final on Aug. 31.
Sinclair went to University in Portland and now considers it home.
“I never really left,” she said. “I’ve had to play in different parts of North America, but this was always home.”
But now she will be honoured once again in her home country.
The Walk of Fame recognizes Canadians from all areas of the entertainment business. Other inductees this year are Terry Fox, Oscar Peterson, Alan Thicke, Bob Ezrin and Craig and Marc Kielsburger.