Christine Sinclair named 2012 Lou Marsh Award winner as Canada's top athlete

The 29-year-old striker becomes the first soccer player to win the Lou Marsh Award in its 76-year history.
The plaudits just keep coming for Christine Sinclair, with perhaps the biggest one announced on Monday.

The 29-year-old striker from Burnaby, B.C., was named the winner of the 2012 Lou Marsh Award, given to Canada's top athlete by a select panel of media members. She beat out challengers Ryder Hesjedal (winner of cycling's Giro d'Italia), Rosie MacLennan (Olympic gold trampolinist), world champion speed skater Christine Nesbitt, and rising tennis star Milos Raonic.

In becoming the first-ever soccer player to win the 76-year-old trophy, Sinclair joins the likes of past recipients Wayne Gretzky, Donovan Bailey, Terry Fox, Steve Nash and Jacques Villeneuve in the pantheon of Canadian sport.

Sinclair's notoriety skyrocketed when she scored six goals at the recent Olympic Games in London, leading all players in that tournament. Her shining moment came in the semifinal game against the United States, when she netted a hat trick in an ultimately losing effort.

Despite the result, Sinclair's three-goal output gained her instant status as a household name, and soldified her as a top-level performer on the world's stage. Even though Canada lost to the Americans in the semifinal, Sinclair eventually led her team to an Olympic bronze medal, a first for the women's program.

“I’d put Christine up there with Roger Federer. I’d put her up there with Serena Williams. She’s genuinely up there with the biggest and best athletes in the world. She is at the Michael Jordan level,” Canada's women's head coach John Herdman told the Toronto Star. “That’s a reality.”

Canada's all-time leading goalscorer, Sinclair has tallied 143 times in 190 games for the national team. She has been nominated for FIFA's Women's Player of the Year Award six times throughout her career, and has been named the Canadian Soccer Association's female player of the year a record nine times, including the past seven years in a row.