Christine Sinclair gives Canada an Olympic hero in London

Canada needed a hero at these Olympics. Now, our home and native land has one -- Christine Sinclair.

No offence to Rosie MacLennan, or Brent Hayden, or any of the other Canadians who've represented the country with such devotion and skill — and picking up the odd medal along the way - over the past week or so. But there could be no greater embodiment of everything we think we see in our athletes, in our country, than what we saw from Sinclair on Monday at Old Trafford, in a heartbreaking 4-3 extra-time loss to the USA in the women's soccer semifinals.

[Slideshow: Canada falls to US in extra time]

With a nation's hopes suddenly, surprisingly, on her shoulders, Sinclair delivered like few athletes in Canadian Olympic history have, like few could have. She scored Canada's opening goal. The Americans tied it up. So, she scored again. They tied it up again. So, what the hell? She added a third. A hat trick, against Hope Solo, the goalie who said she hadn't been challenged all tournament. Three times Sinclair challenged Solo. Three times Sinclair came out the victor. If not for some dodgy officiating, we'd be talking about how the Canadian captain single-handedly defeated the best team in the world over the past decade.

[Related: Controversy mars Americans' win over Canada]

Sinclair's always been a star -- in the NCAA, in the pros, in the World Cup. Yet the Canadian team's never quite answered the bell with equal aplomb. There was talk going into these Olympics that the Canadians might be overrated, that maybe we talk about them too much considering how little they've actually accomplished. But what Sinclair proved Monday, what we should have always known, is there is no separation. Sinclair is Team Canada. As she goes, it goes. So it was Monday, in an effort that wasn't superhuman, or herculean. It wasn't otherworldly. If they played this game 10 times, one could rationally expect Sinclair to perform as she did seven or eight times. She's just that good, all the time. If there was any question about who is the best women's soccer player in the world, it was answered Monday.

For Canada, these Olympics have been desperately searching for an identity. Surely, the 1-5 badminton team wouldn't be our high point? MacLennan's story, while a wonderful achievement, could hardly define four years of national pride and hope. With six short days remaining, our options were swindling. But again, as she always has, Sinclair rose to the occasion, to give us optimism, to give us a bright spot to carry away from a game marred by controversy and a bitter ending.

[More: MacLennan's gold has been Canada's biggest highlight]

Some are asking if she should carry the Canadian flag in the closing ceremonies, like she carried her team and the nation on Monday afternoon. But really, it's the team that should be carrying Sinclair, high on its shoulders, Canada's Olympic hero at last.

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