Known quantities: Canadian stars pitch in

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John Browne
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National team members visit C.B.S., bringing skills and words of encouragement

Diana Matheson hears it all the time. In fact, she says, with a laugh, that she’s lost count of how many times she’s answered questions about her bronze-medal winning goal against France at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Canadian national women’s team midfielderd Diana Matheson (with her foot on the ball) speaks to young participants in the Strive 4 Excellence camp at Topsail Field in Conception Bay South Monday night. — Photo by John Browne/The Telegram

Not sure if it bothers her, but she admits the aftermath of that Olympic medal win certainly has changed the team’s recognition factor.

“I’ve been on the team for 10 years, but there’s been quite a difference in pre Olympics and post Olympics,” said the 29-year-old Matheson.

“We get recognized everywhere we go now. The response has been unbelieveable.”

The Mississauga, Ont., native experienced that response again over the last couple of days as she, along with three other national team members — defender Rhian Wilkinson, captain forward Christine Sinclair and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc — were featured guests at the two-day Strive 4 Excellence camp at Topsail Field in Conception Bay South.

Matheson doesn’t have any problem riding the popularity wave.

“We want to keep the momentum going and keep the home crowd coming out. We’ve got a lot of games in Canada next year (in preparation for the 2015 World Cup in Canada). But we also realize we’ve got to keep winning if we want to keep the Canadian public coming out and supporting us,” she said.

All of the Canadian stars were great with the camp participants, especially LeBlanc who had all the kids laughing.

“To be honest, we have as much fun as they do,” said a smiling Matheson.

The group was in Halifax last fall and will do one more camp in Ontario before this year ends.

Matheson admits there isn’t a whole lot of time to make an impressions on the kids at a camp.

“With limited time, we try to teach them a few new things in each position, but mostly it’s about inspiring them, showing them the Olympic medal and telling them our stories and showing them that we are exactly like they are,” she said.

Matheson told the assembled players at the end of the camp Monday night that they should never get discouraged, pointing out she was cut from all-star teams a couple of times at the minor level, but that this only served to inspire her to try harder.

She says she never got an opportunity to go to a camp with Olympians.

“We didn’t have a lot of women Olympians to look up to then.”

Matheson, who stands slightly over five-feet, plays pro soccer with Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League, which just finished its 2013 season.

The Portland Thorns, whose lineup includes Sinclair and LeBlanc, won the championship.

Matheson, who went to Princeton University and was voted Ivy League Player of the Year in 2007 and Princeton women’s athlete of the year in 2008, will be with the Canadian team through fall and winter before rejoining the Spirit.

“The is our down time,” she noted.

As far as the national team is concerned, Matheson said “I think we’ll have a similar core of players for 2015, but that means we’ll be that much older. So, hopefully, we’ll include some younger players in the lineup over the next few years.”

In the meantime, she’s “thrilled” Canadian coach  John Herdman recently had his contract with the Canadian Soccer Association extended through the 2020 Summer Games.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: National Women, Soccer League, Princeton University Ivy League Player Canadian Soccer Association

Geographic location: Canada, Mississauga, Halifax Ontario

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