And so the 2020 Summer Olympics are finally over. I guess they could be called a success because they happened, much like everything else which has been affected by the Covid. If it happened, it’s successful. Expensive, in Tokyo’s case with the Summer Olympics, but still successful.
Canada had quite the showing and we proved we have half a chance of doing something decent so long as the big guns don’t decide to boycott. A total of 24 medals came home and not one case of the Covid, even. Andre de Grasse winning the men’s 200-metre wasn’t as much of a shock as people claim it is; I happen to think he’s one of the best finishers in sprinting and has that Donovan Bailey-like kick down the stretch.
Damian Warner winning the decathlon was perhaps the coolest win on the men’s side. That photo of everyone laying around after the 1,500-metre, contrasted by Warner standing over all of them, summed up just how good he really was. They say the winner of the decathlon is the world’s greatest athlete and I have no doubt Warner could kick my ass in any event he chose to.
But above all of those, there is one athlete who deserved their gold medal perhaps more than anyone else simply for being the best at their craft. I talk, of course, about Christine Sinclair.
Sinclair is the best soccer player this country has ever produced. Period. No argument. (If you’d like to say something, you know how to get a hold of me because I have no problem defending my choice.) She has scored more international goals than any other Canadian — or any other player at any time in history — with 184. She played more games with the national women’s team than any other Canadian with 304 appearances for the national team. She has been the face of women’s soccer in this country for two decades now.
If anyone needed and deserved to win a gold medal, it was Christine Sinclair.
We all remember the heartbreak of London in 2016: the semifinal against the U.S. and that “six-second” horse crap. Canada ended up losing that semifinal, 4-3. Sinclair scored the hat trick for Canada that night, one of her greatest performances. Canada won bronze that year but it really should have been at least silver.
Fast-forward to Aug. 6, 2021. Canada exorcised the curse that was the Americans — and the blubbering of Megan Rapinoe in her post-game comments — to take on Sweden. Sinclair was subbed out in the 85th minute literally the image of someone running on pure fumes. But not before she drew that penalty where Canada tied things up at 1-1. We would go on to win it in a shootout (still the worst way to decide a championship game in any sport) and watch the ladies literally scream in exaltation.
But then the questions began. Would this be Sinclair’s swan song? Does she go out a champion? She put that to bed rather quickly in some post-match comments where she said she wasn’t going anywhere and good on her for doing that. Seems every time someone we see getting into the twilight of their athletic career, we start the prognostication of whether they should retire. Leave with the untarnished memory of going out a champion and all that is great with being a winner. In a perfect world, that’s how many we would want it to play out.
What’s best about this women’s team is that Sinclair doesn’t have to be the star anymore. She doesn’t have to be the one who’s running kilometre after kilometre game after game to give the ladies a chance. There’s Janine Beckie, Deanne Rose and a host of other players who can find the open space. Sinclair is 38 years of age; she doesn’t have the legs that Beckie and Rose do but she’s still effective when she has to be. You don’t play that long and not know a few tricks.
You know who should get to make that decision on whether Christine Sinclair retires? Christine Sinclair. If she’s fit and feels well enough to go another few rounds on the pitch, who are we to tell her she’s wrong? Christine Sinclair will go out when she thinks it’s good and proper and apparently, it’s neither good nor proper. She and her teammates have that gold medal and she just wants to be a part of the team.
At this stage, that’s what she should be. Part of the team. She’ll let you know when it’s time to go.