Sinclair simply the best

A lot of words have already been written over Monday’s dramatic 4-3 semi-final loss for the Canadian women’s national soccer team against the United States at the Summer Olympics in London.
From the continuing discussions over the officiating during the game, to FIFA looking into possible sanctions over comments made by some of the Canadian team members following the match, it’s safe to say that there has never been as much discussion in this country about a game of soccer in a long time.
Despite all of the controversy though, the most unfortunate thing about all of this, for me at least, is the fact that while the debate will rage for a long time over the way that the match concluded, one big achievement may be overlooked entirely in the future.
That individual accomplishment, which is not to overshadow the great play of the squad as a whole throughout the Olympics, was also the confirmation and arrival to a mainstream sporting audience in this country of something that has been known for a long time.
And that is the fact that Burnaby, B.C.’s Christine Sinclair, who scored a hat-trick during the semi-final loss, is the finest soccer player that this country has ever produced.
While the hardcore soccer junkie like myself has known about Sinclair for a number of years, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that in a country that is obsessed with hockey, those that achieve great things in a non-“major” sport are not as championed as much as they should.
And for someone who has accomplished as much as the 29-year-old Sinclair has during her career, that is a shame.
For starters, she’s already smashed the previous benchmark for the most goals by a Canadian national team member, with an astonishing 143 goals in 189 games.
Simply put, and with apologies to the top men’s players like Major League Soccer MVP Dwayne De Rosario, Sinclair is the face of soccer in this country, having won the women’s Canadian player of the year award seven straight times in addition to be nominate for the world player of the year on five occasions.
In 2003, she chose to sit out a year at the University of Portland in order to participate in that year’s World Cup, where as a 20-year-old, she scored three goals to help Canada earn an all-time best showing of fourth place.
And for those that don’t think that soccer players are tough, with many pointing to the amount of diving and embellishment in the game, Sinclair’s performance in the opening contest of the 2011 Women’s World Cup should put that cliche to rest.
During a contest against the host Germans, Sinclair broke her nose after being elbowed in the face during the second half, and was told by team doctors that she should exit the match
However, Sinclair instead urged the medical staff to clean the blood off of her so that she could return to the game, and proceeded to score a highlight reel goal on a free-kick to give her a squad a chance to upset one of the top squads in the world.
While many other players would of sat out the rest of the tournament, Sinclair herself wore a protective mask on her face for the last two group games, earning praise from nearly everyone covering the event.
It’s not just on the international stage that Sinclair has shined though, as she was a dominant force on the collegiate scene.
During her time at the University of Portland, Sinclair helped lead the Pilots to national championships in 2002 and 2005, with her goal in the 2002 finals against Santa Clara proving to the title clincher in extra time.
On the individual side of things, Sinclair received back-to-back Hermann Trophies as the best player in women’s college soccer, and she still holds the record for the most goals scored in a season with 39.
I could probably go on for another 20 paragraphs or so singing Sinclair’s praises, but I think you get my point.
After Monday’s loss, the accolades for Sinclair had finally begun to be sung among those who aren’t a part of the soccer community,
From those wanting her to carry our country’s flag during the closing ceremonies on Sunday in London, to people already saying that she should win this year’s Lou Marsh Award as the top Canadian athlete, it truly is nice to see.
However, the story isn’t done yet for Sinclair and her team, as Canada will be taking on France for the bronze medal tomorrow.
But even if they don’t win a medal, the women’s national team may have also done something that many have been waiting to see happen for quite some time, which is pushing soccer into a mainstream sport.
Granted, in larger communities you already see a big amount of support for the game, especially during major tournaments.
But in small town Canada, being a soccer supporter is quite similar to being trapped in isolation.
However, that might be starting to change, as an average audience of 3.84 million Canadians watched Monday’s contest, with a total audience of 10.7 million seeing the match at some point.
And with Canada hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup, it’s safe to say that the interest of soccer here is continuing to grow at an increasing rate.
Sure, one single game, one single team, and one single person may not change everything when it comes to the most popular sports here.
But the national women’s team, along with Sinclair, have certainly made their presence felt over the last week, and I for one am very pleased to see that.