Less than 20 minutes after Diane Matheson’s cool sidekick into the net, the cheers from Hayley Wickenheiser were ricocheting across Canada.
“Somebody get those girls some cigars and champagne!!” the Olympic hockey champion told the world via Twitter. Her words, a reminder of her own team’s famous hockey gold celebration in Vancouver, were trending across Canada soon after.
During the nail-biting regulation 90 minutes, the women’s national team hockey captain turned (grammatically rushed) armchair coach.
“What (if anything) might the leadership group said to the team at half time? Hopefulyplay free to win not afraid to lose . . . On our heels, take it on the attack!”
And then the win: “When the legs don’t work, let ur heart take over!! Canada did it today and made history!! insp. new gen. of future olympians.”
The Canadian women’s soccer team, on an extra-time goal by Oakville’s Matheson, won the country’s first team medal at the Summer Olympics since the 1936 Men’s Basketball victory.
It was a bipartisan kind of win.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted, “Congratulations to our gutsy women’s soccer team on their bronze medal win! All of Canada is proud of you!” right after Liberal Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty tweeted, “Bronze for our women’s soccer team! Thanks for inspiring us, capturing our imaginations & gluing us to our seats.”
Ever the statesman, Governor General David Johnston tweeted in both official languages long before either of them: “Our women’s @CanadaSoccerEN excels at #London2012. A much deserved bronze medal!”
The Canadian Soccer Federation seized on a teaching moment, quoting coach John Herdman as saying, “To the young kids out there. I hope you have seen: never give up, just never give up.”
His own canoe bronze still warm, Mark Oldershaw tweeted, “Yes! Congrats to the Canadian Womens Soccer Team on a much deserved bronze medal! Loving being a fan right now! Go Canada Go!”
Ditto kayak silver medallist Adam van Koeverden: “It’s not magic, it’s justice and karma. It’s blood sweat tears and guts. It’s unparalleled skill and unmatched effort.”
Matheson, whom Wickenheiser called the team’s “unsung hero,” was trending soon after and a concerted campaign started using the hashtag “SinclairForFlagBearer,” for captain Christine Sinclair.
“Yep. I’m in. An Olympic record with her 6 goals in this tourney too,” said much-retweeted broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi.
From Perth, Australia, soccer fan “@FIFAWomen pushed the Sinclair campaign onto the international Twitterscape.
Canada Soccer called it “the movement that has come from the fans.”
Matheson’s professional team, the Vancouver Southsiders, kept the groundswell organized by insisting everyone use the same hashtag.
And in yet another marker of how sports heroes transcend politics in Canada, Alberta Wildrose Alliance Party director of communications Brock W. Harrison and the Ontario Liberal Premier’s director of writing Lloyd Rang both used their social-media chops to push the campaign forward.