It is shaping up to be a very special year for one of Maple Ridge’s finest athletes.
Soccer goaltender extraordinaire Karina LeBlanc is due to give birth to her first child at the end of March and just found out recently that she will be inducted into the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.
The 39 year old is no stranger to incredible accomplishments. During a 17-year international career, LeBlanc represented Canada in five FIFA World Cups, aided greatly in a bronze medal effort at the 2012 Olympics in London, and compiled an impressive 47 clean sheets along the way.
This latest honour is something she never thought of growing up.
“You dream of playing for your country, you dream of going to world cups, you dream of going to the Olympics, and winning a medal,” Leblanc said.
“For me, [soccer is] a team sport, so I was never doing it for personal glory, but it is special and means a lot because it’s people recognizing my accomplishments.”
She won’t forget finding out about the Hall of Fame call-up any time soon.
Karina LeBlanc ⚽️ Canada Soccer Hall of Fame
— Canada Soccer Hall of Fame (@CS_HallofFame) February 6, 2020
Fellow Team Canada squad mates Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt made a video congratulating her and sent it to the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football offices in Miami where LeBlanc works as head of women’s football.
The soon-to-be mom said she was called into a meeting and got emotional when she realized what was going on.
“I’m thinking – why are Sinc and Sophie talking to me, and it was one of those things where it was done in a very special, unique way because they made it personal,” LeBlanc explained.
“Canada Soccer did such a great job because soon after I watched it I got a call from one of the board members who had been around for a while and it was warm, so I started crying.
“I said, ‘You can’t do this to a pregnant woman! Of course I’m going to cry’.”
Career honours like the one being bestowed upon her make LeBlanc think of her early days in the sport.
“Maple Ridge was where it started for me,” she recalled. “I moved for the small island of Dominica at the age of eight and didn’t know I had an athletic bone in my body.
“I was the shyest kid – which everybody laughs at when I tell them now – then I was invited to do some track and from there I did some soccer because that’s what the girl’s were doing.
“So, if it wasn’t for Maple Ridge I would have never kicked soccer ball.”
Her love of team sports was sparked.
“It allows you to be with like-minded people, doing like-minded things,” she said. “You can connect to something bigger than yourself… It teaches you to dare to fail greatly, to dream big and find a way to believe in yourself. That’s something that’s never left me and that all started in Maple Ridge.”