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Remembering '99: Karina LeBlanc

The 1999 Women’s World Cup changed my life in so many different ways.

I had just ended my sophomore year at the University of Nebraska and, like most people, I had no idea that the World Cup for women would create such an attraction. It was my first World Cup participation as a Canadian National Team member. Being a part of such an energized historical journey, I went from competing against the USA women, to admiring my opponents. I found myself becoming the fan watching each game with great anticipation. In the final when the USA won, it was the first time that I honestly experienced pride for “my competitors”.

Michelle Akers, whom I respect tremendously, showed how to give her all on the field. She passionately found a way to make every moment on the field count and was such an inspiration to me. When Briana Scurry made that awesome PK save I was filled with excitement. She was the best that there was! Equally impressive was the quiet dignity with which Mia handled each moment on and off the field, showed great character traits and good examples, for generations to come. I could ramble on because each icon and their story allowed me to dream. I was so motivated from what they had accomplished, and I knew that the world would never be the same. To witness the Rose Bowl sold out; the excitement for a Women’s event - especially soccer, brought tears to my eyes. I was so proud to be a female soccer player. I had never seen a women’s team captivate an audience the way this team did. Unforgettable!

I was inspired to become a force; to want to start for my national team; to one day stand proud on a podium with my team. As an athlete, I’ve watched so many moments that create goose bumps. They stimulate you to want to be the best that you can possibly be. I’d say that in 1999, it wasn’t just us athletes or females that were inspired; it was anyone that was able to be a part of it, whether watching it in person or on the television. I think we all shared the same anticipation in believing that this sport for women was gathering momentum, and that the sporting world would never be the same.

Karina LeBlanc is a goalkeeper for the Los Angeles Sol.