Winnipeggers are always proud of our exports — the bigger the stage, the more exceptional the accomplishment, the more likely you’re going to feel the love when you come back home.
And that, my friends, is what Desiree Scott is experiencing right now as the honeymoon continues between her and the city that raised her after she helped Canada to a bronze medal in women’s soccer at the Olympics last week. Scott played every minute of the Olympic tournament (almost every second, save for a gruesome injury that took her off the pitch briefly against the U.S.) and was arguably Canada’s most consistent defensive presence throughout the Olympics.
Back in Winnipeg since Monday, Scott has fielded a slew of media requests for interviews and appearances and, at the Winnipeg Sun offices on Wednesday to appear on a podcast, faced no shortage of people asking her to pose for photos. All of which she has accepted graciously and with a smile.
It’s not surprising, of course. On one hand this was Scott’s first Olympics and to come back from your first Games with a medal of your own, well, let’s just say you’d be pretty happy and willing to show it off too. But what is also true is this spotlight has served to shine a light on Scott as a personality, an outgoing and gregarious woman who seems the perfect fit to be the face of soccer in this city, this province and, if necessary, the country as well.
As mentioned, Scott took time out to visit the Sun office on Wednesday and sat down with me for a podcast interview and for a story that you can find here and in print editions Thursday. And because there’s only so much space in print, here’s a bit of what she had to say that didn’t make the pages:
On her first moments back in Winnipeg at the airport: “My mom had warned me before, she was like ‘there’s just going to be a few people at the airport,’ and then there was security and they’re saying ‘OK she’s coming down the escalator’ and then just to hear the chants as I was coming down the hallway, it’s honestly a memory I’ll never forget. And then to see the kids with their signs and to hear them ‘Go Des Go,’ my heart was beating so fast — it’s not something I’m used to — but it was such an exciting moment.”
On looking back on recovering from the tough semifinal loss to the U.S.: “That loss was very heartbreaking. We were so close to playing for a gold medal and then for it to slip away in the last moments of overtime … so we took the night to dwell on it and then we knew we still had a chance to podium, so we had to shake it off really quickly and just refocus. We had a (sports psychologist) that allowed us to have our moments and then he took us through ways to get over that loss and said we can either dwell on the past or still get on the podium and get a bronze medal, so that’s pretty much we went through.”
On the bounce back to beat France: “That thought is still in my head about the U.S. game, I don’t think it’s a game I’ll ever forget or the team will for that matter. You have to bounce back. You only have two days in between the games so you don’t have a lot of time to focus on that game and we knew France was going to be a big challenge for us and we rose to the occasion … and we did what we had to do.”
On what the feeling is towards the Americans: “That rivalry has been there for years. They’ve always had that winning record against us and the U.S. game in the Olympics I think we played the best match we’ve ever played. We were so close and I think we played the best match we’ve ever played probably in our careers against them. They’re the No. 1 team in the world for a reason and I think they know it and they show it as well. But we’re getting closer and closer and I think in the next couple of years we’re going to be able to match them. That rivalry will always be there, though.
On how to carry the momentum and public support: This bronze medal has done wonders for Canadian soccer. I think everyone excited about our team and excited about the world cup coming here. Over the next couple of years we’ve just gotta keep the excitement going — everyone is at home and their local towns promoting the game and promoting 2015. I think we’re going to be doing some games to hopefully get people excited about the World Cup coming here.
On how Canadian soccer looks in its feeder systems: I think it’s improving every year. We’re getting better and better at developing the grassroots. I think the coaching is getting better, people are getting their credentials; the young ones are wanting to get started competitively at a younger age and I think them seeing us and what we’ve been able to accomplish the younger kids are getting excited about sports and about soccer and the development is getting better.
On her decision to stay in Canada and play CIS soccer: I actually had a ton of offers to go to the U.S. to go to school and that’s usually the thing people do — you’re a soccer player, you go to the States to play. I was a complete homebody and I still am. The fact that the year I graduated (high school) the Bisons had their first CIS season it just sorta seemed like the pieces all came together and I had an opportunity to play in front of my family and friends, which is what I wanted to do. It’s worked out for me I’ve gotten the exposure that I may not have gotten with the Canadian team and it was a choice that I had to make and I’m happy that I did.
On the quality of CIS play: There definitely is quality play. I think people don’t give the CIS as much credit as it probably deserves. Obviously the States they have great programs there, they’ve developed some wonderful athletes and players but I think it’s important to keep more athletes in Canada. I don’t think people should shy away from it. I think the programs are getting better and better everyday. Even our Bisons program, we have top quality coaches coming in there now and the team is getting better and better every year.
On how her tenure with the Bisons shaped her: It had that base for me. I got competitive soccer every weekend and I was training non-stop. I give credit to the Bisons and playing in the CIS to have developed that competitive edge and to have allowed me to get on to the national team. It definitely helped me out.
On dealing with her newfound stardom: This is all so new to me. It’s all pretty overwhelming. It’s crazy how big our team has gotten and how big my name has gotten in the city and I’m honestly so honoured to be able to represent Winnipeg and my country and have people look up to me, I think it’s awesome. I have honestly stopped smiling. I look at my medal all the time. I’m so pumped, I don’t have words.
On the outpouring of support she received online: It was like my nighttime ritual was to go on there because you needed like a good hour to go through all the tweets that you would get. It was ridiculous how much support we were getting. It was just honestly the most amazing thing I could imagine. To think I didn’t have Twitter but I’m glad I got it to see all the support we got because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to know all those great things.