A golden moment in women’s soccer added a number of players to the contenders’ list for Canadian athlete in 2021. The Canadian women captured gold at the Tokyo Olympics, a first for the program and its third medal in the last three Games.
Christine Sinclair has long been the headliner of the team. She won the Lou Marsh Trophy in 2012 after the team clinched bronze at the London Olympics, Canada’s first medal in a traditional team sport since 1936.
Her club team, the Portland Thorns, won the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup this year, as well as its second regular-season title. The 38-year-old was nominated for the Ballon d’Or Féminin, one of the most prestigious individual awards in soccer, finishing sixth overall, and is one of 13 players vying for the The Best FIFA Women’s Player, which will be announced next month.
But Sinclair is not the Canadian with the best claim to the Lou Marsh award this year. And she will be happy about that.
“I don’t need to play out of my skin for us to win, and it’s great to be a part of that,” she said after Canada beat Sweden on penalties to claim gold in Japan.
Here are a few of Sinclair’s teammates who are likely to get a mention when the committee of sports media members meet to decision this year’s Lou Marsh winner on Dec. 8.
- Ashley Lawrence, 26, who finished eighth in Ballon d’Or voting, is one of the best fullbacks in the world. Her pace and vision in transition have been game-changing for the Canadian team and for Paris Saint-Germain. The Brampton native has long been valued as one of Canada’s best players, but her stock rose in France this year as she helped PSG best rival Olympique Lyonnais to win France’s Division 1 Féminine. She was also named to the league’s team of the year — in one of the best leagues in the world.
- Canada’s new minister of national defence, 35-year-old Stephanie Labbé, earned the nickname by stopping five of 12 penalties she faced in Tokyo, where she made the No. 1 spot in Canada’s net her own despite stiff competition from Kailen Sheridan. She had success at club level, too, winning the Damallsvenskan league title in Sweden’s top women’s division, and reaching the quarterfinals of the women’s Champions League. Despite playing less than half the season in Sweden, Labbé finished second in the league with nine wins. She was unbeaten in 10 matches and posted eight clean sheets. That performance led to a move to PSG, where she joined Lawrence on one of the world’s best teams, and a nomination for FIFA’s best women’s goalkeeper.
- London native Jessie Fleming, 23, was Canada’s top goal scorer in 2021, in part because of her four penalties at Tokyo 2020, including two in the gold-medal win over Sweden. She finished ninth in Ballon d’Or voting this year after pulling strings in the midfield for both Canada and Chelsea, where she won England’s Women’s Super League title and the League Cup title in 2021. Chelsea has a shot at securing a trophy treble this weekend, when it takes on Arsenal in the FA Cup final.
- Quinn, a holding midfielder, brought calm to the Canadian side in the centre of the pitch. They became the first openly transgender and non-binary athlete to compete and medal at the Olympics, using their platform throughout the year to advocate for more trans representation and inclusion in sport. A year after former Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif shared Canada’s best athlete honour, in part because of his work in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, Quinn should be considered because of their on- and off-field impact in sport.
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