Still, members of Canada’s Olympic team were taking the field. On this day, one of their final public appearances before shutting the world out to prepare for the Games, Canada’s Olympic hopefuls took time away from visiting family and friends to meet and train with some local 13-year-old girls who play with a club team in the Greater Toronto Area.
I knew right away when the London-bound players arrived. The field house I was sitting in sounded more like a basketball court as the sound of soaked sneakers shuffling along the wooden floorboards pierced my ears.
It didn’t take long before the jokes, giggles, and energy took over and I felt like I was back in my high school’s cafeteria catching a glimpse of the cool kids catching up with one another. It was going to take more than rain to dampen the spirits of 24-year-old midfielder Kaylyn Kyle.
Even with the hood of her sweatshirt covering her head and a make-shift umbrella — you can’t miss Kyle’s long blonde locks - her teammates are quick to follow her into the rain and onto the pitch to get the day started.
When Kyle smiles and laughs with Diana Matheson on their way out the door, you can’t help but notice the differences between these two. At five-foot nine, Kyle towers over her five-foot teammate. Matheson is all business: her short, dark brown hair is tied back in a tight no non-sense ponytail and secured by a pink “Because I’m a Girl,” headband. But you can see it from a mile away: the chemistry boiling over. These are more than teammates, these are top-notch athletes and if they’re not the best of friends, they’re doing one heck of a job selling their team camaraderie.
It doesn’t take long to get a sense of Kyle’s energy and attitude, by the time you take in her neon cross trainers and lulu lemon leggings it’s no surprise defender Robyn Gayle has anointed her the team’s “it girl.”
“Just look at her!” boasts Gayle, like a proud older sister.
“It’s her unlimited energy,” adds Carmelina Moscato, who after rooming with Kyle in Vancouver would know what it takes to calm the Saskatoon native down.
So it’s Kyle’s energy and maybe even her ability to keep her thick black mascara from running even during a torrential downpour at a downtown soccer pitch that makes Kyle the overwhelming team favorite for a wing chick at any type of social gathering.
If Kyle is the outgoing socialite, then Moscato is the team matriarch. Good advice can be hard to come by on the road and thousands of miles away from home, family, and friends, which is why Kyle counts on her roommate the same way her team does to anchor their last line defence.
“Anytime I need advice, I go to her [Moscato]. She knows my deepest, darkest secrets,” Kyle adds with a convincing chuckle.
The centre back has her own “go-to” source for direction when it comes to issues other than playing her way out of the back. Carm and Robyn grew up together on the soccer field - they’ve known each other since they were just 14-years-old.
The two mainstays on Canada’s back four can tackle any topic or striker for that matter, but what makes their bond so unbreakable, according to Moscato, is how Gayle won’t just tell her what she wants to hear, but, “what I need to hear.” If there’s one source to avoid on the team bus when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place Matheson warns it’s Melissa Tancredi.
“If you really want to make your life really interesting, go to Melissa, she would just give you a really interesting answer,” the five-foot two attacking midfielder proceeds with caution, “maybe something that would steer you wrong, but it would be exciting along the way.”
Canada’s top women on the pitch might write very different advice columns, but when it comes to the captain of their ship, Christine Sinclair, or “Sinky” as Gayle refers to the Burnaby B.C. native, everyone on the team agrees the “C” is exactly where it should be.
Moscato cut to the chase when I asked her about the best advice her captain has ever given her.
“I think her advice is not through her words - she doesn’t speak much, that’s not how she leads, but I’ve never not seen her show up for a game…you want to play for her and with her.”
Kyle still remembers her first encounter with Canada’s all-time leading goal scorer.
“Coming in I was super nervous. I was this lankly little blonde, maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet, and I came in and was super nervous, and she was just like, ‘breathe, you know what, have fun.’
“You’re playing for your country, it’s an incredible opportunity, she doesn’t say a lot but when she does you don’t forget it. She’s incredible.”
Her teammates have endless examples of how seriously Sinclair approaches her role on the team, but it’s Matheson who sheds some light into the softer side of the three-time Olympian.
“She’s got a fantastic sense of humour and it’s very sarcastic.”
When Sinclair does crack a joke there’s a good chance she’s calling out Kyle for forgetting something somewhere - a bad habit Kaylyn owes up to.
“I leave everything everywhere, my heart rate monitor, my cleats, my water bottle, geez,” she shrugs to herself and shakes her head. “I’m always forgetting those.”
Kyle might be forgetful, but she’s at least punctual. The same can’t be said for keeper, Karina LeBlanc. If there’s a team bus idling on a crowded street corner in London chances are Karina’s not on it…yet.
“You give her 30 minutes, you give her a 15-minute warning, if she plays, if she doesn’t play, she’s the last one, always,” Gayle emphasizes, always.
“We wait for that girl all the time, like hours,” as Kyle rolls her eyes, “I honestly don’t think she owns a clock for one, or a watch, and if she does it’s two hours behind, and you know what, she’ll admit it.
“She always has about seven bags with her,” Matheson goes on, “three or four of them are usually open so often things fall out or get lost along the way.”