The BC Summer Games have an impressive list of alumni, and among the event’s featured alumni is Maple Ridge’s own Karina LeBlanc.
She has a long list of titles and accomplishments, including spending 18 years playing soccer at the highest levels of the sport, and helping backstop Team Canada to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Back in 1993 and 1994, she was competing at the BC Summer Games. She was also there in her hometown in the winter of 2017, announcing that the 2020 BC Summer Games would be hosted in Maple Ridge.
One of the soccer venues bears her name, as a new artificial surface soccer field that opened in the fall of that year is named for her.
LeBlanc said she wants all the kids who play there to dream their own “crazy, big dreams,” as she did as a youth, playing at nearby Merkley Park.
LeBlanc tells a story about getting cut from the Team BC under-15 team, and deciding she would work out an extra 15 minutes every day to get better.
“That field is where I did most of that work,” she said.
She has also started a new namesake foundation based in Maple Ridge, and she hopes it supports girls in achieving their sports dreams.
LeBlanc is on a list of star-studded Games alumni:
• Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, a Prince George native who competed in the BC Winter Games in 2002;
• former Toronto Blue Jay third baseman Brett Lawrie, a Langley resident, competed in the BC Summer Games in 2004;
• Mission swimmer Brent Hayden, who won bronze in the 2012 Olympics, swam in the BC Games in 1998.
LeBlanc has a number of impressive titles, including the head of Concacaf Women’s Football, which she was named to in the summer of 2018.
The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football said “the former Canadian international will lead the Confederation’s efforts to strengthen and grow the women’s game throughout the Concacaf region.”
LeBlanc is also a UNICEF ambassador. She was born on the small Caribbean island of Dominica, and her family moved to Canada when she was a child.
In 2015, she returned to Dominica and visited UNICEF projects, and hosted a soccer clinic for kids.
Before she retired after the 2015 World Cup, LeBlanc had competed in five FIFA World Cups and two Olympic Games for Canada.
She has just returned from working as a commentator at the 2019 Women’s World Cup – the first she attended where she wasn’t on the pitch.
But it all started on the fields of Maple Ridge, and in events like the BC Summer Games.