For most guests at Sophie Schmidt’s celebration party Sunday night, it was the closest they will ever be to an Olympic medal.
For others, it may have fully ignited the fire inside to chase an Olympic dream.
In front of her friends, family and fans, Abbotsford’s Schmidt had a few moments to take in her big victory.
Just days after winning an Olympic bronze medal as a member of the Team Canada women’s soccer team, the W.J. Mouat Secondary grad made a brief stop at a private party in Abbotsford to give invited locals an opportunity to celebrate her achievements at the Olympics.
Guests lined up to soak in a little bit of Olympic greatness in their own backyard. Schmidt said it’s nice to be able to bring the bronze home again.
“We did an event like this four years ago after London and it’s an opportunity for people to see me in person and it’s a way for me to give back because of all they’ve done to support me through the years,” she said. “I’m very proud to have come from Abbotsford and develop my game here.”
Schmidt was on the field the moment Canada clinched bronze for the second straight Olympics by downing Brazil 2-1 on Friday. She entered the game in the 66th minute.
“I was pumped,” she said. “We always felt calm and never felt like we were going to lose, but in that situation there’s the excitement of wanting the final whistle to blow and also wanting to score another one. When you come in as a substitute you want to fight for your teammates.”
When that final whistle blew, Schmidt said the team breathed a collective sigh of relief and the emotions came forth.
“I stopped and looked at my teammates and we all just let our guard down,” she said. “I looked over at Sincy (Christine Sinclair) and just all she’s gone through this year and it was so rewarding for all of us. It’s moments like that you cherish forever.”
But it wasn’t all triumph for Schmidt and the Canadian team in Rio. They fell 2-0 to Germany in the semi-final to erase chances of winning gold. The expectations were high for Canada in Rio, and Schmidt said it was a lost opportunity for the team.
“With that game against Germany we felt like we were so close and it slipped through our fingers,” she said.
Schmidt said the young players on the team felt responsible for the loss, and hated the fact that veterans moving on wouldn’t get the chance to win a colour other than bronze.
“Some of the girls on the team in London really inspired the younger players on this year’s team,” Schmidt said. “They wanted to do something special for us and they felt like they let us down after that game. It wasn’t the case at all. It would have been nice to have a different colour, but that’s soccer.”
After the crushing loss to Germany, Canada could have packed it in, and let the host country Brazil and their fans walk away with bronze. But Schmidt said an inspiring speech by head coach John Herdman rallied the troops.
“We were very emotional before the bronze medal game,” she said. “Coach brought up how girls like Rhian Wilkinson and Melissa Tancredi have fought so hard for Canada and told us to go out there and play for them.”
Schmidt said the difference between the 2012 and 2016 teams was simple.
“Last Olympics we fought so hard for that medal but this year we deserved it and really earned it,” she said. “We only lost one game and we might have won that one if we had buried our chances.”
Another connection from Abbotsford to Schmidt was the Fraser Valley girls soccer team, who captured gold at the event held in Abbotsford in July.
The entire team was invited to Schmidt’s private party, and the entire relationship come about from home renovations.
Schmidt was recognized buying paint at the Abbotsford Benjamin Moore paint store, and signed a jersey for a fan. That turned out to be Jayden Gill, a player on the Fraser Valley team.
The team had the jersey on their bench during the entire BC Games tournament, and it proved to be a lucky charm as they won top spot.
“They sent me some messages letting me know how they were doing and it was great to hear they won gold,” Schmidt said.
As for Schmidt’s immediate future, she returned to Germany and re-joined her professional club team in Frankfurt.
At just 28, she said she definitely wants to suit up for Canada at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
“That’s the plan, body willing,” she said, when asked about her future Olympics potential. “I want to stay involved in the national team. There will be some turnover, but it’s exciting because there’s so much young talent out there, and I think we will just keep getting better as a country.”