April 8, 2020

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Sinclair's achievement is second to none

Editorial

On Jan. 29, in a largely empty stadium in southern Texas, Canada’s Christine Sinclair achieved something no other human being ever has.

Delcia Lopez / The Associated Press</p><p>Christine Sinclair celebrates a goal against Mexico on Feb. 4.</p>

Delcia Lopez / The Associated Press

Christine Sinclair celebrates a goal against Mexico on Feb. 4.

The captain of the Canadian women’s soccer team hit the back of the net twice in an 11-0 victory over St. Kitts and Nevis, scoring goals No. 184 and 185 to pass retired American Abby Wambach and become the world’s all-time leading goal-scorer.

In mathematical terms, what that means is that no other player in the world, man or woman, has scored more goals in international soccer than the 36-year-old striker from Burnaby, B.C.

Nobody.

It almost beggars belief that a woman from a country known primarily for its love of all things hockey now stands alone at the top of the scoring list for what is widely considered the most popular sport on the planet.

In the course of her storied 20-year career, Ms. Sinclair has scored goals in 41 different countries, a geographical A to Z that ranges from Argentina to Zimbabwe. On Tuesday, she scored goal No. 186 to lead Canada to a 2-0 win over Mexico. At press time Friday, she was preparing to lead Canada onto the field against Costa Rica with a berth in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics at stake.

If any athlete in this country deserves to have their accomplishments shouted from the rooftops, it is Ms. Sinclair, arguably the greatest non–hockey–playing team athlete in Canadian history.

In true Canadian fashion, the response to Ms. Sinclair’s record-breaking achievements has been upbeat, but largely understated. There was a flurry of positive headlines, TV reports and congratulatory phone calls, but it wasn’t the sort of overwhelming reaction that might be expected if a male athlete had reached such a milestone.

It didn’t help that Ms. Sinclair’s record-breaking goal came in a Texas stadium where the vast majority of the seats were empty, and the gravity of the moment seemed lost on the few spectators in attendance.

"The complete lack of occasion surrounding such a momentous milestone was noticeable and more than a little surreal, as Sinclair wasn’t properly feted considering the significance of the occasion ... ultimately, a champagne shower from Sinclair’s teammates had to suffice," wrote John Molinaro, director of content for the website of the Canadian Premier League, Canada’s top soccer loop.

Globe and Mail sports columnist Cathal Kelly lamented Ms. Sinclair has been consistently undervalued for her entire career.

"Her first mistake was not being born in the United States," Mr. Kelly opined. "If Ms. Sinclair were American, the United States would be building statues of her. But in Canada, a superlative of the first rank passes with a small round of applause and then on to the next."

If any athlete in this country deserves to have their accomplishments shouted from the rooftops, it is Ms. Sinclair, arguably the greatest non-hockey-playing team athlete in Canadian history. She is to soccer what Wayne Gretzky was to hockey.

While she has inspired countless young athletes, regardless of gender, Ms. Sinclair remains famously humble, shunning the limelight off the field and consistently deflecting praise directed her way.

"I’m not going to lie," she said. "To have broken the record is a weight off my shoulders. Now I can just actually go out and enjoy it and help Canada qualify for the Olympics, because that’s the true focus, now that the goal thing is out of the way."

Yes, the goal thing is out of the way. And even if Ms. Sinclair is the last person who would want to see a statue erected in her honour, it’s starting to sound like a pretty good idea.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

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