Training at the top of the mountain

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

Canada's national women's soccer team returned to the chilly pitch atop Burnaby Mountain yesterday, dreaming of September's heat in Shanghai.

Two dozen players began a seven-week residency camp Monday to prepare for the Sept. 10-30 FIFA Women's World Cup in China. Canada finished fourth in the United States four years ago.

"This is a huge step for us. We've got a lot of time together before the World Cup," said Burnaby striker Christine Sinclair. "Before the last World Cup, we were together a month and a half with a few camps leading up to it."

Head coach Even Pellerud said the first camp's focus is strength, conditioning and fitness. Sinclair and teammates from the W-League champion Vancouver Whitecaps will play solely for the national team this year, but are expected to appear at Swangard Stadium for pre-World Cup friendly matches. Canada will visit China to play the host country in May.

Charmaine Hooper, Christine Latham and Sharolta Nonen are not on this camp's roster. They were suspended for boycotting a camp last summer after their commitment to the Vancouver residency program was questioned.

"The ball is more in their courtyard than in my courtyard," Pellerud said. "This time they were not considered for camp because the team we had in the fall played well and earned a new chance."


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