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Eyes downcast, legs leaden, Melissa Tancredi trudged to the sidelines.
“I was done. I was so done so.”
She couldn’t have. None of them could.
Canada chased the game against France for 92 minutes. The French will have seen this sort of ragged retreat before — at Dunkirk. In the second half, Canada backed up against its own goalmouth and waited to be saved.
No ships arrived, but neither did any balls get past Canadian hands, legs, posts or crossbars. Eleven women saved themselves.
Canada had one shot on goal in the game, in the 92nd minute. Perhaps the least likely person on the pitch for it to fall to — elfin defensive midfielder Diana Matheson — had the presence of mind and the surplus stamina to chase the play up the pitch and then plant the chance when it fell in her path.
Immediately following the game, the great hero of this team, Christine Sinclair, came out, dazed, eyes wide and wet. She was one of the few who had not cried after the controversial loss to the Americans. She’d saved her tears.
Asked to encapsulate her feelings, Sinclair breathed in deeply.
“I’ll give it a shot,” she said uncertainly.
She’s not much of one for putting feelings into words. The strong and mute type might cover it.
So she boiled it down to one idea: “Nothing compares to this.”
When it comes to the summer iteration of this competition, Canada does not need to be about totals. Canada works best when we make it about performances, about moments. Put away the calculator when you come to Canada.
Over six matches at London 2012, Canada’s women’s football team provided us with the compelling reason why we fund all these athletes with our tax dollars, and why we must continue to do so. We can count on only one thing from any Olympics: the chance to, at least once, show our mettle.
It’s time to start embracing resilience. It’s a word often used to run down our way of doing things. But it’s who we are. We rise as far as we can and hang there in the air until gravity catches us. There’s something noble in that. It’s what makes us special.
The problem to be solved is conveying that trait to a whole country. These women managed it. They connected with their countrymen and women in a way they do not yet properly grasp. They started un grand sea-to-sea-to-sea amour.
But that’s what we wanted out of this: romance. We wanted redemption. We wanted the wronged parties to pick themselves up and prove that they could be broken and remain unbowed.
It so seldom works out that way. For long stretches on Thursday, it looked like it wouldn’t.