The Province

Fitter, faster, stronger

Canada pins Olympic hopes on superior work ethic — and Christine Sinclair

- By Kimiya Shokoohi

The Canadian women’s national team is as Canadian as they come.

So much so that after winning their Olympic berth in January, the squad celebrated in the locker-room singing to Celine Dion’s Power of Love. As they do, with every big win.

It’s fitting then, the team’s residency in Vancouver in preparatio­n for this summer’s London Olympic Games has seen the world’s seventh-ranked squad grow into a physically stronger team.

For team captain and Burnaby native Christine Sinclair — who has a tattoo of a maple leaf playing soccer on her back — the locale has been remarkably significan­t.

“I feel spoiled, in a sense. This is my hometown and I’m comfortabl­e here, and my family is here and when you have an off day I can go and spend it with my family,” Sinclair said Friday.

“It’s a different intensity, being at home, seeing the support, every single practice we have youth teams out, young teams watching us, cheering us on. You can’t help but to push yourself to the limit.”

“I remember the buildup for Beijing, [in 2008] there was all this excitement about the Olympics and actually getting to go to the Olympics,” Sinclair said. “This time, it’s business.”

The squad trains Saturday through Friday, starting with early-morning weight training in Richmond’s Olympic Oval, followed by a series of indoor soccer that sees the group split between mini-games and cardio exercise.

“I love the scientific aspect of our sport. We wear units, heart-rate monitors for very single practice,” Sinclair said.

Following last summer’s women’s World Cup in Germany, FIFA’S soccer analysis program ranked Canada as the seventh fittest team in the tournament.

Since Canada’s CONCACAF qualifying success, team sports scientist Cesar Meylan told The Canadian Press the group has seen a 3.5 per cent improvemen­t.

“It’s exactly what we need,” said Sinclair, who tops Canadian soccer records with a career 133 goals. “Our coaching staff, they have a plan and right now the plan is to push us to the limit and taper us closer to the Olympics. Our goal is to to be the fittest team heading into those games, so obviously a lot of work has to be done.”

Sinclair is set to lead the team at the tournament opener against World Cup winner Japan. After the July 25 match, the team will play two more group games against 65th-ranked South Africa and No. 5-ranked Sweden.

“I’m excited that they are in our group,” Sinclair said of Japan, a team she described as “the best — hands down”.

Sinclair’s goal at the Olympics — aside from meeting the Queen, she joked — is “to bring home a medal.”

And this time, singing to more than Celine Dion. Perhaps, on a podium, singing the Canadian national anthem.

 ?? — CANADIAN PRESS ?? Christine Sinclair doing what she does best during a team practice at Jericho Beach in Vancouver Thursday.
— CANADIAN PRESS Christine Sinclair doing what she does best during a team practice at Jericho Beach in Vancouver Thursday.

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