Who can save our international reputation from the Toronto mayor who won’t go away?
Actually, we have someone already. Never mind that final losing match at Wimbledon. In Eugenie Bouchard, Canada has an eye-popping global star whose potential value to the country’s image is immeasurable.
Earlier this year, Hall of Famer Chris Evert called the 20-year-old Montrealer “the future of women’s tennis.” That might be a stretch, but don’t be surprised if Ms. Bouchard does for Canada what Ms. Evert did back in the days when she was America’s sweetheart. Or if she becomes what Maria Sharapova, to whom some compare her, has been for Russia. In fact, from a marketing point of view, Ms. Bouchard can be better than that – unlike the Russian, she doesn’t partake in one of the great stupidities of tennis: on-court grunting.
Global branding is important. With the embarrassments brought on by Toronto’s Rob Ford (not to mention Justin Bieber), the Canadian brand hasn’t exactly been on the up recently.
It’s not just her talent that makes Ms. Bouchard the antidote. She is imbued with that winsome Canadian quality of wholesomeness. Rightly or wrongly, Canadians used to be thought of in such terms. Now, outsiders, especially those who don’t know anything about our government, can think that way again. You look at Genie Bouchard and you wonder how many glasses of milk she has each day. You wonder how the same country could produce a leader like Mr. Ford.
On this page Monday, columnist Elizabeth Renzetti correctly lamented the lack of attention paid to our female sporting successes. Clara Hughes is a good example. She won six Olympic medals spanning both Summer and Winter Games, but most Canadians probably couldn’t identify her. Abroad, hardly anyone could.
But tennis champions are at a different level entirely, especially charismatic ones. They become instantly recognizable global celebrities. They’re prominent several times a year, not just once every four years at the Olympics.
This story is special because if Ms. Bouchard progresses as expected, she could be Canada’s most famous female athlete ever. It’s all the more notable because going back decades, this country has been nowhere in women’s tennis. (Carling Bassett reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open once.)
Ms. Bouchard’s marketing potential was demonstrated by the attention the international media lavished on her. They made her the darling of Wimbledon. She was routed by a superior opponent in the final, which took off some of the shine. But it took Ms. Evert several grand slam finals to win one. Indeed, most champions endure their share of losses along the way.
Ms. Bouchard has a surgeon’s focus. She returns the ball earlier than anyone in the woman’s game. She is mentally tough. She will get faster, stronger and more unerring. She comports herself with poise and class.
What a contrast to our bitterly partisan political leaders. It’s hard to think of anyone who has single-handedly brought more derision to the country’s image than Mr. Ford. He now seeks to make a comeback by playing the victim card: It wasn’t my fault I repeatedly lied to you about smoking crack. It wasn’t my fault I was a druggie, a drunk, a belligerent boor. It wasn’t me; the disease made me do it.
Ms. Bouchard will make the world forget him. Besides her, there is another young sporting sensation on the way. Golfer Brooke Henderson of Smith Falls, Ont., finished in the top 10 in her sport’s recent U.S. Open – at just 16!
Going back to Barbara Ann Scott (speaking of wholesome), who won the figure skating gold medal in 1948 at St. Moritz, Switzerland, female athletes have helped make the Canadian brand shine. That trend is now being magnified – and it couldn’t happen at a better time.