A pro soccer player from Wisconsin will sport a Maple Leaf at this summer’s Olympics because of her Newfoundland connection.
The roster for the Canadian women’s soccer hasn’t been finalized, but Lauren Sesselmann has been a key player since being invited to training camp last fall.
“I absolutely love it,” Sesselmann says of playing with Canada.
“I love the staff, I love everything Canada represents. This is like a perfect fit for me. I’m getting along with everyone. I’m learning new things everyday. ... We’re just having a really good year right now and it’s fun to be part of.”
Sesselmann, who spoke with The Telegram last week from a tournament in Cyprus, got called to camp after going through a lengthy citizenship process.
She was able to become a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen because her father was born in Stephenville while her grandfather was stationed at the U.S. airforce base there. The west coast town was her dad’s home for just a few years. Raised in Stevens Point, Wis., she has never been there.
“Everyone says I should go check (Newfoundland) out,” Sesselmann says. “I’m hoping to one day check it out. My dad and I have actually been talking about it, to go take a trip.”
It’s actually common for athletes to play for countries where a parent or grandparent was born.
While playing with Purdue University’s soccer team, Sesselmann says some teammates were playing internationally because of their mom or dad’s birthplace.
“I was like, Wow, my dad was born in Canada. I hadn’t really thought about it, so I talked to him and I was like, ‘Hey, I’d really love to be part of Team Canada. Let’s go through the process.’”
She wrote the team, which advised her to try and obtain citizenship and to send along a couple of videos.
Getting citizenship took a couple of years, and after numerous videos and emails, she got the call.
It’s been quite a ride since.
In January, the team qualified for the London Games with a 3-1 win over Mexico in an Olympic qualifier at Vancouver.
Sesselmann, who has converted to left back as member of the team, was part of it.
Teammates poked fun at what she sang as the rest of them did a victory rendition of “O Canada.”
“She was yelling,” goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc joked with the Vancouver Province. “I don’t know what she was yelling, but she was belting it out.”
According to her Twitter feed, Sesselmann was singing the national anthem while in Cyprus, where the Canadians lost to France in the final.
“I’ve known the anthem since September now ... do I need to make a video of me singing (for) everyone to believe?” she wrote.
Sesselmann finds it hard to believe she’s likely heading for the Olympics.
“It’s been a dream of mine every since I was little. I didn’t know if it would actually ever be a reality. It kind of just hit me these past couple of weeks after we did well in qualifiers. I’m just so unbelievably excited and I’m going to do everything that I can to be part of that Olympic team.”
For the past two summers, Sesselmann has played for the Atlanta Beat of the Women’s Professional Soccer league (WPS).
The season before she joined the Atlanta team, she won the WPS championship with the New Jersey Sky Blue.
She says she’s trying to figure out what she’ll do after she’s finished playing soccer.
There are some options.
Sesselmann works for a wine company called 24 that is owned by former Green Bay Packer Charles Woodson.
As well, she has a book for tweens, “The Killer Bees,” in the process of being published.
And the part-time model is set to begin filming an independent horror movie this fall.