Fri, September 20, 2013

Desiree Scott's the talk of the town

A bronze medal, a bit of history and Scott has a city chanting her name

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency


Desiree Scott greets fans Monday after she arrived at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. (JASON HALSTEAD/Winnipeg Sun)

WINNIPEG - You couldn’t blame arrivals at the airport last night if they wondered what they’d stumbled into.

A red carpet, a throng of a few hundred, many of them young girls in soccer gear chanting “Desiree” or “Dezy” — even a spontaneous version of O Canada.

Then the reason for all the hoopla appeared at the top of the escalator, a bronze medal around her neck, and it was sheer bedlam.

“To come home and hear my name being screamed... I’m holding back tears right now,” Desiree Scott told a media mob at the foot of the escalator. “It’s absolutely unreal.

“My heart’s still beating pretty fast. This is unbelievable. I honestly did not expect this at all. The turnout is phenomenal.”

In case you’ve been living in a cave, Scott — she’s the Dez-stroyer to her soccer friends — is our city’s latest Olympic hero, after she helped the Canadian women’s team produce the country’s defining moment in London.

After a heart-wrenching semifinal loss to the big, bad Americans (they wuz robbed, the general feeling went), Team Canada stole the bronze from under the noses of the French, capping a remarkable story that saw the women come back from near oblivion at the last World Cup.

“We’ve inspired Canada,” Scott said, and looking around it was hard to argue. “I still can’t believe we medalled. I’m so pumped.

“Our team doing this is an unbelievable feat, and we’ve inspired young kids. Look at this turnout right now. It’s amazing. We’ve made history here.”

It was the first time since 1936 Canada won a Summer Games medal in a team sport.

And what better role for a Winnipegger to play than the tough, grinding game of Scott, highlighted by a goal-saving play that helped turn dreams into bronze against France.

That wasn’t her favourite moment, though.

That would come when teammate Diana Matheson scored the only goal of the match, and Scott ran up to the ref to ask how much time was left.

“She told me 10 seconds,” Scott recalled. “And then just to hear that whistle blow, that had to be the moment for me, knowing I had hit the podium.”

A close second was getting the medal at historic Wembley Stadium.

“I have a medal around my neck. This is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in my career. I honestly am on Cloud 9 right now... I still can’t believe I’ve got this. I’m still in awe.”

Her family was up on that same cloud with her, mom still up on the airport’s second level, drying her tears, two brothers in the front of the receiving line down below, one holding Scott’s player card as a nine-year-old.

Christopher Hawkins was also carrying a birthday card. It was a tad belated, as his sister turned 25 on July 31, while she was away.

“I’m proud of her,” a beaming Hawkins said. “To me she brought home the gold.”

That’s how most people in the throng felt, including Scott’s longtime friends and former teammates, Carrie Nash and Dana Baker, disguised in full-body stockings.

“We wanted to do something different, stand out from the crowd to grab her attention,” the green girl, Nash, explained.

Baker was in red. But the colour of the night was pink, as dozens of kids wore pink headbands, Scott’s trademark.

“Everyone’s talking about her,” Baker said. “The Canadian women’s soccer team was the hugest thing for Canada in the Olympics. Across the country it’s just going to spread. It’s obviously spread throughout the world, too, that Canada’s obviously ready to compete.”

Led by the spark plug from the ’Peg.

Scott’s not going anywhere for a while.

On her immediate agenda, some family time, a little sushi and maybe a shot or two of Captain Morgan’s rum.

“One of my favourites,” she acknowledged. “Post-tournament, obviously.”

Down the road, though, it’s more soccer.

And Scott being Scott, she’s already thought about how to top all this.

“Rio,” she said. “When we get a gold at the next Olympics.”