Canadians give Olympians, Paralympians a hero’s welcome in Toronto

The Eh Game

The memory still stings for members of the Canadian Olympic women's soccer team. Even now, more than a month after returning home from London with bronze medals around their necks and a nation celebrating their success.

"It's hard to relive the moment and know your gold medal dreams were cut," said Melissa Tancredi, a 30-year-old forward for the Canadian women's team.

Tancredi is speaking of Canada's 4-3 semifinal loss to the United States in London, a game in which many believe Canada was robbed by Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen. Her six-second violation call against Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod in the 78th minute eventually led to an Abby Wambach penalty kick that tied the game and forced extra time. Alex Morgan then headed home the winner in the 123rd minute leaving Canada disappointed and in disbelief.

"I think about it every day and I think it will sting until we beat them," Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod said.

But Friday's Olympic Heroes Parade in Toronto wasn't about reliving the past. While the loss to the U.S. still lingers, and a bronze medal wasn't ideally how the Canadian women's team wanted to finish the Games, Tancredi says the medal was a dream come true for her and a big step for the sport in Canada. It was the country's first medal in a traditional team sport at the Summer Games since 1936.

The parade was about celebrating that success along with the successes of hundreds of other Canadian athletes. It was also a chance for school students and Olympic fans around Toronto to gather at Maple Leafs Square and show their support. Hundreds of grade school students from across the city crowded into the closed off parade, many sporting red and white, some waving flags or holding up signs in honour of their favourite Olympians. Others attempted to get as close as they could to the Olympic red carpet, throwing their hands over or through the silver guardrail trying to grab athletes signatures.

"You can see the support here and with the people who were actually watching the game, it's an unbelievable feeling to know that your sport, your game was watched all over Canada and all over the world," she said. "We're very proud, were like little kids right now, it's honestly a dream come true and hopefully it continues for soccer and the momentum continues into the World Cup 2015."

For McLeod, one of the coolest parts about the entire experience aside from winning the medal is the reaction she's received since returning home and the affect the team has had on her fellow Canadians.

"You don't really believe it until you see it, until you're recognized in the streets, this kind of welcome is just unbelievable… I think the coolest thing that people say to us now is that 'I never watched soccer and now I'm hooked' or little kids getting hooked and now we're their inspiration for signing up for soccer," she said.

Hopefully that and some international success down the road helps take some of the sting away.

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