North Delta’s Jasmine Mander (left) poses for a selfie with Canadian women’s soccer team captain Christine Sinclair after the team won Olympic gold at International Stadium in Yokohama, Japan on Aug. 6, 2021. (Jasmine Mander/submitted photo)

North Delta’s Jasmine Mander (left) poses for a selfie with Canadian women’s soccer team captain Christine Sinclair after the team won Olympic gold at International Stadium in Yokohama, Japan on Aug. 6, 2021. (Jasmine Mander/submitted photo)

Canada’s Christine Sinclair focusing on ‘bigger things’ than scoring milestone

Sinclair set a new world record in January 2020 when she scored her 185th goal

Canadian soccer legend Christine Sinclair isn’t looking backwards.

While a celebration is set to be held Friday for a record-setting goal she scored more than two years ago, Sinclair isn’t focused on the recognition.

“We’re forgetting about that one,” she said with a grin.

“It happened so long ago that personally and as a team, we’ve moved on and we’ve achieved so much. It will be great to celebrate it with my friends and family, but so much bigger things have happened since then, important things. So I’m focusing on that right now.”

Sinclair set a new world record in January 2020 when she scored her 185th goal on the international stage. She’s since added three more — and an Olympic championship.

Now the Canadian women’s soccer team is set to celebrate the gold medal they captured in Tokyo last summer with a pair of friendlies. The games will see Canada, ranked sixth in the world, host No. 39 Nigeria in Vancouver on Friday and Langford, B.C., on Monday.

While Canada has medals at three consecutive Olympics (two bronze, one gold), the women’s team is still somewhat underestimated on the international stage, Sinclair said.

“I see some of my teammates here missing awards and things that they should have won. It’s sad,” she said.

“But none of us play this sport for the individual awards. It’s the team awards, the gold medals, things like that. We’ve got those in our back pocket now. So we’re just out there to prove everyone wrong and show day in and day out what we’re all about and get better.”

This week marks Sinclair’s return to the national squad after she missed a tournament in England in February following the death of her mother.

“Christine just brings that aura of calmness to the group. Fantastic to have her back,” said head coach Bev Priestman. “And to be here in B.C. feels really special with her family, friends and the fans.”

The dynamic forward had already made 308 appearances for Canada, including 302 starts, and tallied 188 goals and 53 assists in international play.

She’s also helping the next generation of stars develop.

Jordyn Huitema remembers joining the national team as a young player, nervous to be on the same field as the veterans.

“I came in mostly as a sponge,” said the 20-year-old forward for Paris-Saint Germain. “And I started talking to (Sinclair) a lot and learning from her and that made our bond grow closer and closer as the years went on. I definitely think we’re a lot closer now.”

Hailing from the suburb of Burnaby, B.C., Sinclair expects to have 50 or 60 friends and family members take in the game at Vancouver’s B.C. Place, including her young nieces.

“It’s always special to play in front of those who mean the most to you,” she said. “Obviously with the way the Olympics happened, they weren’t able to be there in person and with the pandemic I haven’t been able to see them a ton. So it’ll be special.”

In addition to marking Sinclair’s scoring milestone, Friday’s game will act as a farewell to Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who announced her retirement in January.

Asked if she, too, could be playing her last national team match in front of a home crowd, the 38-year-old Sinclair responded with an emphatic “No.”

“If Steph gets a retirement game here, then I definitely get a retirement game here,” she said with a laugh.

—Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

RELATED: VIDEO: Canada’s Christine Sinclair breaks world scoring record with goal No. 185

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