RIO DE JANEIRO — It was a dramatic start for Canada at the Rio Summer Games on Wednesday.
Janine scored the quickest goal in Olympic soccer history as the Canadian women’s soccer team earned a dramatic 2-0 win over Australia in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Beckie opened the scoring just 20 seconds into the match as Canada secured the victory despite playing short-handed for 71 minutes after Shelina Zadorsky received a red card.
The women’s preliminary soccer schedule began two days before the Games are scheduled to officially open.
After plenty of anxious moments for the Canadians, veteran captain Christine Sinclair cemented the win in the 80th minute. Canada resumes tournament action Saturday against Zimbabwe but won’t have Zadorsky, who’ll serve a suspension.
Sinclair also made her presence felt early, intercepting Laura Alleway’s pass to defensive partner Alanna Kennedy in front of the penalty box. And when Alleway rushed out at the Canadian captain, Sinclair coolly rolled a perfect pass through her legs to Beckie who tapped the ball past Australian goalkeeper Lydia Williams.
But the Canadians lost Zadorsky in the 19th minute, leaving Canada a player short for the remainder of the contest to nurse the slim lead. Zadorsky grabbed an Australian attacker by the shoulder, forcing her down.
She didn’t argue the call as the official issued the red card.
Williams stopped a Beckie penalty in the 73rd minute after what was deemed an Australia handball in the box. Then Alleway cleared a Fleming shot off the goalline after it squibbed through Williams’ legs.
But Sinclair earned the insurance goal for Canada, beating Williams to a long ball from Fleming and then knocking it into an empty net. She celebrated with verve, clenching her fists.
Canadian coach John Herdman said his team dug deep.
“The game had a bit of everything,” he said. “It was great to watch.”
The Olympic flame is now in Rio, ready for the lighting of the cauldron Friday. The torch relay, which began with a ceremonial lighting in Ancient Olympia, Greece in April, hitched a ride on a tour boat to reach the first city in South America to host the Olympics.
The Canadian Olympic Committee also held its traditional kickoff news conference Wednesday. The overriding theme was “Canada is ready” after its athletes registered 34 top-five world championship performances in the past year after a strong showing at last summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto.
The international results, says Canadian chef de mission Curt Harnett, show Canada is on pace to reach its goal of a top-12 finish in the final medal standings.
“Our athletes’ performances on the international stage have been incredible, and have kept our athletes on track with this goal,” said Harnett, a three-time Olympic cycling medallist. “It has been such an honour to see them in beast mode over the last few months on the road to Rio.”
Harnett believes Canada’s 314-member team will win in the range of 19-plus medals, which would be one more than the Canadians brought home four years ago from London. Topping 20 medals would be a significant accomplishment for the Canadian squad — the last time that happened was 1996 (22 medals).
But the plotline in Rio has been far from positive amid concerns about crime, polluted water, and the Zika virus.
The Canadian medal run is expected to be anchored by a track and field team that made a historic eight marches to the podium at last summer’s world championships.
Swimmer Ryan Cochrane, in the 400-metre freestyle, and Jennifer Abel and Pamela Ware, in the three-metre synchro event, look to kick off the march Saturday. The women’s rugby sevens team begins its quest for a medal Saturday when the sport makes its Olympic debut.
Meantime, all of Russia’s weightlifters and 17 of its rowers will miss the Rio Games after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected their appeals against doping-related suspensions.
A CAS statement said its arbitrators ruled Wednesday that the ban on Russia’s team imposed by the International Weightlifting Federation “was valid and was properly applied in the circumstances.”
The court also dismissed an appeal by Daniil Andrienko and 16 other Russian rowers. It said the decision by the sport’s governing body to deny their entry for the Rio Games was in line with new International Olympic Committee rules.
The Canadian Press
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