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Canada's Christine Sinclair thinking about playing soccer beyond 2020 Olympics

VANCOUVER — She has scored more goals than anybody else in soccer and played more games than any other active player, but retirement isn't on the immediate horizon for Christine Sinclair.

The Canadian national team captain will appear in her fourth Olympics this summer in Tokyo and talks like someone planning to play longer.

"All along I have given myself to Tokyo, then we'll re-evaluate things," the 36-year-old Burnaby, B.C., native said Tuesday. "As it has got closer, I realize that if the passion and the desire to keep playing is there, I will keep going.

"You can definitely only do this for a certain amount of time and I'm going to try to do it as long as I can."

Asked directly if she will keep playing after the Games, Sinclair laughed and said it's up to national team head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.

"Maybe, if Kenneth wants me around," she said. "We'll see."

Sinclair's 186 goals makes her the all-time scoring leader in international soccer. She broke the old mark of 184 held by American Abby Wambach by scoring twice in a Jan. 29 game against St. Kitts and Nevis during the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers.

The 293 games Sinclair has played are more than any active international player. She is also the second player of either gender to score at five World Cups.

The night she broke the old goal-scoring record Sinclair was flooded with congratulations. Hearing from former tennis great Billie Jean King was "pretty special, I'm not going to lie."

Of her goals, Sinclair said three stood out the most.

There was the first one she scored in her second international game on March 4, 2000, against Norway. She thinks her prettiest was a left-footed, one-timer to the far post during a tournament in Brazil in 2011. The most important was the one she scored against Brazil during the 2016 Summer Games to give Canada its second consecutive Olympic bronze medal.

During a news conference at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame Sinclair showed off the ball she scored the record-breaking goal with. She also took questions from members of a 13-year-old girls soccer team.

In one answer, Sinclair explained she wears the No. 12 because growing up she loved baseball and her favourite player was former Toronto Blue Jay Roberto Alomar. Alomar, who also wore No. 12, was one of the people that reached out to Sinclair when she set the record.

Being a role model to young women is something Sinclair takes very seriously.

"It's one of the most important roles I have to inspire the next generation," she said.

Looking toward Tokyo, Sinclair said the United States women's team remains the biggest obstacle to Canadian success.

The defending World Cup championships beat Canada, ranked No. 8 in the world, 3-0 in last weekend's final of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.

The two teams have played 60 times in all competitions with the U.S. holding a 50-3-7 record. Canada's last win over the Americans was in a 3-0 victory in a 2001 Algarve Cup game where Sinclair scored a goal. Canada has been 0-29-6 since but has tied two of the last six meetings.

"I'm the lone survivor from our team that (last) has beaten them," said Sinclair. "They are the number one team in the world for a reason. That' being said they are not untouchable."

Sweden upset the U.S. in the quarter-finals of the 2016 Olympics, sending the American home empty handed.

"To beat them you have to be your absolute best for 90 minutes," said Sinclair. "In the CONCACAF final we were at our best for about 60 minutes. Then some individual mistakes and you're down 3-0. That's how quick it can happen.

"Just the depth they have, the players they were forced to leave off their rooster could probably start on most other national teams. We just have to be at our best this summer to able to take them on."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2020.

Jim Morris , The Canadian Press

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