With extra year, Christine Sinclair aiming to change colour of Canada’s Olympic medals

Stuck in isolation, Christine Sinclair learned she hates running — at least without a ball to chase.

The Canadian soccer superstar said she’s been staying fit with lots of golf and national team-wide Zumba classes run by midfielder Desiree Scott on Zoom.

Sinclair is isolating in Tampa, Fla. The all-time international scoring leader went there to pick up her dog — Charlie, a Pomeranian — from a caretaker after the national team’s France tournament which ended March 10. By then, anyone returning from Europe had been told to quarantine for two weeks. After that was up, Sinclair and Charlie decided they were happy isolating in the Florida sun.

The Olympics wouldn’t be postponed for another two weeks after Sinclair’s return stateside.

“It was such a relief to know that now we have another year to prepare and that’s quickly where my mind went was another year to get better, another year to get our team better and close those gaps,” Sinclair said in an interview with CBC Sports’ Andi Petrillo on Friday.

WATCH | Sinclair going for gold in Tokyo:

The all-time leading international soccer scorer hopes to build on the lessons learned in London 2012 and Rio 2016, as Canada prepares for Tokyo 2020. 1:45

In the meantime, Sinclair had been practicing on a small patch of grass outside her apartment and using a nearby wall as a passing partner and makeshift goalkeeper.

At one point, she ventured to a sports complex containing six soccer fields.

“I was the only person out there and I’m like this is social distancing to the extreme, but I got kicked out,” Sinclair said.

Now, like the rest of us, Sinclair is biding her time waiting for some sort of return to normalcy. The National Women’s Soccer League’s pre-season is scheduled to begin May 11, which is when Sinclair is hoping to return to the pitch with her Portland Thorns.

In the meantime, the Canadian women’s soccer team’s bronze medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics is being featured on CBC’s Olympic Games Replay on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

That win vs. host Brazil, as well as the gold-medal match between Germany and Sweden, will be streamed on CBCSports.ca as well as air across the CBC television network. Check your local listings for the time in your region.

OLYMPIC FLASHBACK | Canada wins bronze in Rio:

Watch highlights of the bronze medal won by the Canadian women’s soccer team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 0:52

Looking back, Sinclair says she’s proud of both her 2012 bronze from the London Olympics and the repeat in Rio. But in the moment, they couldn’t have felt more different.

“Obviously thrilled to beat Brazil for bronze, them being the host country that was fun to silence that crowd,” Sinclair said. “But I’ll never forget, my locker’s next to Desiree Scott’s and we’d just gotten our medal and she’s just like ‘I’ve never been so mad at a medal because I know this could’ve been a different colour.

“Just extra motivation for next year.”

WATCH | Reliving Sinclair’s greatest goals:

Canadian captain Christine Sinclair scored her 185th international goal on Wednesday to break the all-time record, so we look back at some of her best. 3:54

The London medal, on the other hand, was special because to the public, it was unexpected.

“2012 was like a dream come true. No one except for us heading into those Games expected us to medal. We had a goal to inspire a nation and just that group of players that were on that team, we weren’t the most skilled group but man we would fight for each other till the end,'” Sinclair said.

The goalkeeper on that 2012 squad was Karina LeBlanc, who retired three years later. LeBlanc recently gave birth to daughter Paris, but was split from her after potential exposure to COVID-19 while in the hospital.

“Karina is one of the best people I’ve ever met — so kind, so genuine, just one of the best people,” said Sinclair, who announced her ex-teammates February induction to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.

LeBlanc reunited with Paris after 14 days on Friday.

“I can’t imagine what she was going through, she was obviously hurting very badly but to see that — definitely tears of joy. We all wrote in our group [chat], like ‘Oh my God, so amazing, and she’s just like ‘I haven’t let her go yet.’ And it was like three hours later,” Sinclair said.

LeBlanc was also one of the pioneers of the NWSL and remains a force in the women’s soccer fight for equality.

Sinclair said that seeing the inaugural men’s Canadian Premier League made her continue to long for a women’s version, or at least some Canadian NWSL outposts.

“I fear we will get left behind as a national team,” Sinclair said. “The women’s game has areas of growth still to come. It’s getting there, it’s just very slow.”

At the 2021 Olympics, however, it’ll still be Sinclair leading the way, trying to change the colour of her team’s prior two medals.

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