Circumstance left the door open.
Dedication allowed Sydney Leroux to walk through it, and to the top of an Olympic podium.
The 22 year-old had a gold medal draped around neck last week at the Summer Olympic Games in London. Leroux was a member of the United States women’s soccer team, which not only defeated Japan 2-1 in the championship game, but knocked Canada out of gold medal contention with a 4-3 win in a controversial semifinal game. It was a Canadian team that had four players on it who were teammates with Leroux in Thailand in November, 2004, when as a 14-year-old Surrey resident, she was a surprise pick for the Canadian national team competing at the under-19 Women’s World Championship.
It was the only time Leroux would play for Canada.
The goal, she had said, was always to play for the United States.
“Luckily for me, I have dual citizenship, my dad’s American, my mom is Canadian,” she explained on the US Soccer website. “I knew I could eventually move to the States and play here. I made a decision at a young age, and I just went for it.”
Leroux began to play south of the border as a 14 year-old, spending a couple of months in Washington just weeks after playing for the Johnston Heights Eagles in a Fraser Valley high school championship tournament. Being away from home proved stressful, and Leroux soon moved back to Surrey. But she realized her dream was still south of the border.
“When I was 15, and I told my mom I needed to get out of here, and get farther away so I couldn’t come home so easily,” she said. “She put me on a flight to Arizona, I stayed there until Christmas.”
Leroux moved to Los Angeles to play at the collegiate level with the UCLA Bruins, and in 2008, she took advantage of her dual citizenship (Her father once pitched for the Anaheim Angeles, her mother played third base for Canada’s softball team in the 1987 Pan-American Games in Indianapolis) and accepted an invitation to join the United States under-20 team. She played 36 games wearing the stars-and-stripes, scoring 30 goals in 36 games.
This past winter, she was named to the American team heading to the Olympics.
“It’s such a legendary team, from Mia Hamm to Kristine Lilly, now Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone,” said Leroux.” So many great players have been through the program, and I wanted to be part of something special. I knew it’s hard to crack this team, and to do it out of college is pretty cool.”
Leroux was in the U.S.A. lineup in all six games at the Olympics, but only played in four. On each occasion she was substituted into the game with fewer than 15 minutes to play, but did manage to score an insurance goal in a 2-0 win over New Zealand.
“It was one of the biggest moments of my career so far,” she said, before describing the goal. “ peeled out and got inside of the defender. I took a touch and felt the defender fall. I looked at Abby (Wambach) to see if I could slot her a pass, she pointed at the goal and said ‘go, take it yourself.’
“I put it through the goalie’s legs.”