TOKYO (660 NEWS) – On the surface, it’s just a game of soccer at the Olympics: ninety minutes of action, with the goal of standing on the podium by the end of the competition.
Simple enough, right?
And for several players on the Canadian women’s team, they’ve been through it before.
Veterans Christine Sinclair, Desiree Scott, and Sophie Schmidt helped capture a history-making bronze in 2012. Another group joined that trio in Rio 2016 to bring back-to-back medals home to Canada. So they know what it’s like to win during normal Olympic circumstances.
But what about the unprecedented pandemic-related elements they’re dealing with in Japan?
1/5 Tokyo Update for all those concerned. Can only speak on our experience, but as an athlete I feel very safe myself, and I feel VERY confident that we are not putting the community at risk.
From the moment we landed at the airport we have been separated from locals.
— Stephanie Labbé (@stephlabbe1) July 15, 2021
No fans in stands
Since COVID-19 restrictions began in 2020, the players have had to deal with empty stadiums, both in professional and national team environments.
It’ll be different at the Olympics, though.
Looking back, over 25,000 people were on hand at Manchester’s Old Trafford when Canada squared off with USA in the memorable 2012 semifinal.
Four years later, nearly 40,000 packed Arena Corinthians in São Paulo to see Canada beat Brazil in the bronze medal meeting.
Japan 2020 will be quiet — no spectators.
“It’s been a long year of playing without fans,” defender Shelina Zadorsky admitted. “Playing in England, we weren’t having fans, and I think there’s such an energy, especially when you play a home game in Canada. But an Olympic games and that crowd…
“I remember in Brazil when we played Brazil in Rio; it was incredible feeling the energy of the crowd.
“However, I think we’ve had a lot of practice without crowds. We’ve had to perform with no one watching in the stands. I think it’s not a first-time-around experience for us.
“I think it’ll be even more imperative that we feed off of each other’s energy. We have loud voices out there. We’re constantly communicating on the field and feeding off of each other’s energy. We’ll be up for it, and we’ll be ready. It’ll just be unique in the sense that there’s no one in the stands.
The Tokyo Games are expected to be the hottest Olympics ever, adding another element to the tournament.
“For the last two camps, Spain and L.A., the heat training was a big part of that decision,” head coach Bev Priestman explained. “The group have been training their guts to take on more fluids, slushies. So everything we’re doing is designed to basically help us be the best we can in Japan.
“We’ve adapted well. Everything we’re doing has a purpose, even down to the penalty kicks, and everything is them one per cents, those little things that can make all the difference — we’re going after everything. What you’re learning is as you get to them big moments, semifinals then finals, it’s definitely marginal.”
Canada’s first game is July 21 versus Japan.