For the first time ever, a soccer player was named Canada's athlete of the year. What does it all mean? It's just recognition that she and her team had a great year, not much more than that.
Well it's award season and plenty of people have been doling them out in the last few days. Christine Sinclair was pretty much a shoo-in to get anything limited to Canadian Soccer players, but there was definitely a lot more competition in the overall categories. Or maybe not.
The CBC, as well as Air Canada have named her Athlete of the year, and probably some others as well by now, but Canada's most prestigious, long standing and well known award is the Lou Marsh award, voted on by 'a committee made up of representatives of Canada’s major sports media outlets', whoever that is, and they announced today that Sinclair won that one as well.
She's the first soccer player to receive the award in it's 76 year old history, beating out Ryder Hesjedal, Rosie MacLennan, Christine Nesbitt and Milos Raonic among others this year.
It's an important honour for her and well deserved, as is whatever reflected glory also falls on her teammates whose roles in getting Canada to that Olympic bronze medal shouldn't be overlooked and certainly aren't by Sinclair herself. As she said to the cbc:
"It's a tremendous honour to have the fans recognize myself for such [accomplishments]," she told Russell. "I think this goes to show what our team did this summer in London. Had our team not had the success we had, this wouldn't have been possible. I owe pretty much everything to my teammates.
"It was a remarkable ride we were on."
Sinclair had her best year in what's been a tremendous career, and topped it off with a career defining game in the semi final against the US, which was maybe the one thing that's been holding here back from this level of acclaim in the past as her and the team as a whole haven't reached this level of success and public awareness before.
But let's not let ourselves get too wrapped up in the hyperbole and read too much significance into this as some kind of turning point, as more evidence of soccer's breakthrough in Canada? Will it lead to more coverage and mainstream awareness? Sure, but only very briefly. Is Kayaking more popular than ever after Adam Van Koeverden won the award a few years back, or does the average sports fan still only pay attention every 4 years at the olympics? Was 2012 a banner year for figure skating after Patrick Chan won last year? Would we all be devouring any cycling news and coverage we possibly could right now and for years to come if Ryder Hesjedal had won, as many thought he would? No, no, and no.
There's still a hell of a lot needed to happen for the interest shown this summer to be maintained between now and the 2015 World Cup when things will undoubtedly pick up again. If the men's team had made it to the Hex, the attention snowball might have kept rolling next year as well, but alas, that wasn't to be. This is just an aftershock from the attention Sinclair and the team gained at the Olympics rather than a warning sign of extra pre-eminence to be granted in the future.
It is what it is, recognition of an outstanding athlete coming together with her team to have a career moment. It's well deserved but don't give it too much importance. NHL Lockout coverage will still be front and centre of the sports pages and tv shows when Wednesday morning rolls around.