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Youth Olympics

LeBlanc: Young Olympians must embrace the moment

(FIFA.com)
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  • Karina LeBlanc will be an Athlete Role Model at Buenos Aires 2018
  • Canadian legend to share her experiences with young athletes
  • She tells FIFA.com about her role and the importance of futsal

Karina LeBlanc is a lover of sport with a special fondness for the Olympic movement. “Greatness”, she says is the first word that comes to mind when the Games are mentioned. Understandably then for the Canadian, it is “an honour and extremely special” to have been chosen as an Athlete Role Model (ARM) for the Youth Olympic Futsal Tournaments Buenos Aires 2018.

The former goalkeeper, now a FIFA Legend, was invited to be part of a programme that seeks to inspire young sportspeople through champions. During the competition, which begins on October 7th for futsal, she will be meeting young athletes from various disciplines to share her experiences.

“For me, the best way to connect with a young athlete is to try and put myself in their shoes,” LeBlanc told FIFA.com. “It’s not too hard. When I was younger we had the BC (British Columbia) Summer Games, which was like a mini-Olympics in area I grew up. I remember those emotions and I was just representing my town. It’s a huge opportunity for all these athletes because they get to experience one of the greatest honours at a young age.”

“At the same time, I think it’s important to be a voice to remind them to embrace the moment and have fun because, before they know it, the Games will come to an end. So if you’re not present during it, they’ll miss an incredible time in their lives. You asked about the most important message to give them, and I’d say it is to ‘make sure to breathe and have fun’.”

Karina LeBlanc’s achievements

  • Played at five FIFA Women’s World Cups™
  • Won bronze at the Olympic Football Tournament London 2012
  • Was the first professional women’s footballer to be made a UNICEF Ambassador
  • Runs her own foundation aimed at empowering girls to realise their dreams
  • Member of the FIFA Female Leadership Development Programme

Sport as an antidote to bullying and shyness
On her journey to becoming an icon of Canadian women’s football – she played 110 times over almost 18 years for the national team – LeBlanc endured a long road before overcoming her own personal challenges. She moved Canada aged eight from the small Caribbean island of Martinique, but says she was “shy as a kid and bullied, and didn’t fit in at all”.

Over time, however, she found a way to integrate herself and to grow. “Sports changed things for me. I felt that I’d finally fitted in and found value within myself. I just always wanted to be the best version of myself.”

The importance of futsal
In Buenos Aires, LeBlanc will be hoping to pass on to the young athletes some lessons from her own life and career. “To me, sport is one of the best preparations for life,” she said.

During the Games, the male and female futsal tournaments will be headline events. And as a promoter of the development of women in football, the Canadian appreciates the role futsal can play in that for girls.

“Football was my platform to so many things and it helped me discover myself among many other things. Futsal could work that same way for other women. There are areas where futsal is the best option. I just want women to get out and be active and play a sport they connect with, because sport teaches you so many things. It teaches you goal setting; it teaches you how to work within a team and deal with different emotions and people; it also teaches you that failure is a good thing because you learn to move on quickly.”

LeBlanc believes that futsal’s arrival on the Olympic stage can only be beneficial for future generations. “When you see things, you believe it’s possible. When these girls see the possibilities, they will start to believe that they too can do this one day,” she concluded.

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