Sinclair anxious for Olympic experience - The Vancouver Sun

Vicki Hall
Canwest News Service

BEIJING - Christine Sinclair simply couldn't stomach the thought of watching the world's soccer powers battle for gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

On television, no less. The mere thought made her tummy twist with frustration. And jealousy.

``It hurt so badly not to be there,'' Sinclair said. ``We were so disappointed.''

Devastated might be a better word. So, with the painful past in mind, Canada's sensational striker can handle the waves of nausea that keep washing over her this week.

This time around, Sinclair feels sick with excitement as Canada prepares to kick off the 2008 Summer Olympics Wednesday with a qualifying game against Argentina.

``We've spent some good time with our sports psychologist to get us prepared for what's going to happen,'' said Sinclair, Canada's all-time leading goal- scorer with 92 strikes. ``Nerves aren't necessarily a bad thing. Nerves show that you're excited. They show you care.''

Oh, these young women care, all right. They burst into tears upon beating Mexico 1-0 on enemy territory this spring to become the first Canadian women's soccer team to ever qualify for the Olympics.

There are sure to be some tears as Canada kicks off the entire Olympics with the game against Argentina.

``I keep waking up in the morning with butterflies in my stomach,'' said goalkeeper Erin McLeod. ``It's all starting to hit us. The girls are all starting to get pumped up.

``We're all ready to get it going.''

Ninth-ranked Canada is grouped with Sweden (ranked No. 3), China (No. 14) and Argentina (No. 29.) The top two teams in each group advance to the quarter- finals along with the top two third-place teams.

On paper, Canada should clobber Argentina, Shouldn't they?

``None of us have every played in the Olympics, so we're all pretty excited, '' Sinclair said. ``But I'm sure we'll take care of the little things and pay attention to the basics. This isn't just another game in the regular season for a football team. This is the Olympics. And hopefully we can start off with a bang and get a win.''

Up next for Canada is a Saturday clash with host China.

And then there's Sweden, one of the best teams in the world.

``We need three points out of our first game,'' Sinclair said. ``That's the way we want to start.''

With a ninth-place ranking, Canada's medal chances seem slimmer than choking pollution turning into a nonfactor throughout the Olympics.

But Sinclair knows better than to read too much, if anything, into FIFA rankings.

After all, Canada was ranked 14th heading into the 2003 Women's World Cup and made it to the bronze-medal game.

``We know we've got a lot of work to do,'' Sinclair said. ``But I believe we can beat any team here. I really do.''

vhall@thejournal.canwest.com

© CanWest News Service 2008