Canada's women's national soccer team claimed its first Olympic gold medal with a win over Sweden late Friday night in Yokohama, Japan (early Friday morning in Portland), in a penalty shootout that went to sudden death. That means its captain, longtime Portlander Christine Sinclair, who attended the University of Portland and has captained the Thorns since the team launched in 2013, finally has the Olympic hardware to match her well-established status as the world's best.
The game marked Canada's first time in a final for a major world championship. The national team earned bronze in the past two Olympics but has never made it past the quarterfinals in a World Cup. Sweden took the lead in the first half on a goal from Stina Blackstenius, but in the second half Sinclair was brought down in front of the goal and Canada was awarded a penalty. The captain handed the ball to Jessie Fleming, who made it a 1–1 game. The game remained tied through two 15-minute periods of extra time and the five initial PKs rounds, before Julia Grosso, a 20-year-old second-half sub from Vancouver, scored in sudden death after Canadian keeper Stephanie Labbé blocked a shot from Sweden's Jonna Andersson.
In the semifinal on August 2, Canada had bested the US for the first time since 2001. The only goal was also a penalty kick from Fleming. That game, which pitted Sinclair against four of her current Thorns teammates, was a rehash of the unforgettably charged 2012 Olympic semifinal between the two countries, but with the opposite result. The win in the final is an even bigger celebration for Canada.
Sinclair, a native of Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, came to town in 2001 to attend the University of Portland (where she also has helped run summer camps and kindly signed the occasional Hello Kitty diary for a camper) and is the last player remaining from the Thorns inaugural roster. Now 38, she has been a member of Canada's senior women's team since she was 16, and holds the world record for the most international goals at 187. She claimed the title from American Abby Wambach early last year, and she should hold it a while—she has dozens more goals than the closest active players (Carli Lloyd, Marta, Alex Morgan, and Cristiano Ronaldo). She won two NCAA championships with UP, and with the Thorns has won two National Women's Soccer League championships as well as two pandemic-era microtourneys (the 2020 Fall Series and the 2021 Challenge Cup). But on the international stage she's been on the lists of asterisked athletes, one of the greatest players never to have won a world title. Until today.
Also on the podium were two of Sinclair's fellow former Pilots—Sophie Schmidt, a Canadian who plays for the Houston Dash, and the OL Reign's Megan Rapinoe, who helped secure bronze for the US with two stunning goals against Australia on August 5—and four USWNT players on the Thorns. Thorns keeper AD Franch made her first Olympic appearance in the semifinal after starter Alyssa Naeher, of the Chicago Red Stars, exited the game with an injury a half-hour in.
Their teammates were, of course, up for the 5 a.m. Canada-Sweden game to cheer on their captain, as the Thorns shared on Twitter.