Cathedral grad Melissa Tancredi - 2012 London Olympics: Bronze Medal
By Scott Radley
The Hamilton Spectator (Sept 5, 2012)
She was loading her stuff into a taxi in Sweden a couple of weeks ago when she first realized her life had changed.
“You play football?” the driver asked, out of the blue.
“Yeah,” she answered, a little puzzled at the query.
“You play for Canada?” he continued.
“Yeah,” she replied again.
“I watched your game.”
It’s now been 31 days since Canada squared off with the United States in one of the most legendary-yet-infuriating games in international soccer history. It’s been 28 days since Canada scored with a minute left to win a bronze medal. And just about every day since has been a new experience for Melissa Tancredi who’s discovered she’s now rather famous.
Being recognized hardly ever happened before. Oh sure, at a soccer venue folks knew who she was. But out in public? Out of her uniform or Team Canada stuff? Never.
Yet in the wake of one of the most celebrated performances in Canadian sports history — for her personally and the team corporately — the stories of her new-found notoriety now go on and on for the 30-year-old from Ancaster who’s finally home again.
Flying from Florida following a week’s vacation after the Games, she awoke to see a number of people staring at her from their seats. One woman in particular.
“I thought, ‘Here we go,’ ” Tancredi says, laughing. “I’ve had comments on my muscles.”
But, instead of speaking about her biceps, the woman simply asked if she was the star of Canada’s team and then explained that the Olympics were the first time she’d ever watched a full soccer game.
At the Ticats’ Labour Day game, Tancredi’s face was shown on the Jumbotron, drawing a long, loud ovation from many of the same fans who’d been shaking her hand, thanking her and calling her a hero all day in the stands.
“That’s something you dream of,” she says. “That’s TV stuff. I didn’t realize how much we affected the country.”
Throughout the Games, the team had remained ensconced in its Olympic bubble. It had a rule against going online and reading what was being written about it. As a result, the players — her included — had no idea about the growing attachment Canadians felt to the team and the sense of national anger directed at the official in the semifinal game against the United States.
The players had no idea how many people got up early to watch the bronze-medal game and how many folks who would otherwise never have watched a soccer game stood up and cheered when Diana Matheson scored in the last minute to topple France.
So this outpouring and recognition has all been illuminating to her. But it goes beyond that. The kind words and genuine displays of emotion have helped her deal with what she calls the healing process of getting past that game against the States.
Despite the bronze medal, despite the four goals she scored in the tournament and despite the leadership role she played on the team, the loss to the U.S. still hurts badly. Getting over it hasn’t been easy. In fact, she admits she still hasn’t. Nor does she fully expect to anytime soon.
So has she watched the game on PVR to …
“Noooooooo,” she says before the question can even be finished. “That’s one that’s years down the road.”
She pauses for a moment.
“I hear it was a great game, though.”
It was. Make no mistake, however, she’s not sour on elite international soccer. In fact, she’s already thinking about taking another crack at a gold medal, maybe even against the Americans. She plans to take the next year-and-a-half away from the team to finish her chiropractic degree. But she’ll be training the whole time in preparation for the women’s World Cup, which Canada is hosting in 2015.
In the meantime, maybe allowing herself to enjoy being part of a team that helped build the foundation for a surge in interest in women’s soccer in this country.
“You can’t help but feel proud of what you’ve done,” she says. “That you’ve touched all these people that you don’t even know.”email@example.com
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