As Canadian Chef de Mission Mark Tewksbury announced Christine Sinclair’s name, she walked to the podium sheepishly giggling and smiling, humbly calling this the biggest honour of her soccer career.
The Canadian Olympic Committee announced Sunday that the star and captain of Canada’s bronze-medal-winning soccer team will be the flag-bearer for Sunday night's closing ceremonies leading its athletes out of the London Olympics.
Sinclair scored three goals in Canada's dramatic semi-final loss to the U.S., and set a women’s tournament record with six goals overall as the Canada captured a bronze medal. It was the first medal for Canada in a traditional Summer Games team sport since 1936.
“It’s been an emotional five days,” said the soft-spoken Sinclair, chatting with reporters after the announcement, fiddling with a Canadian flag draped around her shoulders. “Our soccer team is all over the map with our emotions, and then to hear Mark ask if I would be willing to carry the flag, very few athletes get a chance to do that, and it’s the hugest honour. I’m emotional.”
Sinclair admitted she may have broken a few of the conventional Canadian ‘rules’ when it comes to keeping the flag-bearer news completely secretive. She said she immediately called her mother (who does not use Twitter, she insisted), and had to tell a couple of her teammates today who were pressing about why she was going out on her own dressed in a Canada jacket.
“This is by far the greatest honour I’ve ever had in my athletic career,” said Sinclair. “To be able to lead the country that I’m so proud of and so proud to be the part of out into the closing ceremonies. “This is the most amazing team I’ve ever been a part of. It’s been so moving to witness the connection this team has had.”
She said she has seen her own teammates watching through tears as other Canadian athletes competed in London. She is eager to see the ground-swell for women’s and girls soccer in Canada when she returns home. Sinclair says she has been touched by parents telling her their daughters have been inspired to take up soccer.
"Our goal heading into this Olympics was to try to change the sport of soccer and change women’s soccer, I hope that’s what we’ve been able to do,” said Sinclair. "That’s the motto for this Olympics, inspire a generation and that’s what I hope this Canadian team has been able to do back home."
“I’m hoping that it catches on, and I think that hearing what’s happened back home, you hope that it continues, and its not just something that happens every four years. The U.S. plays like that every game, and we have to bring it every game if we want to be considered the best.”