Catholic student helps Canada's Olympic soccer hopefuls

  • August 7, 2008

{mosimage}AJAX, Ont. - Candace Chapman's Olympic journey to Beijing began on a soccer field in Ajax when she was just eight years old. She is one of 57 athletes from the Greater Toronto Area at this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing.

Her parents Gerard and Margaret say they're proud of their daughter's accomplishments. Aside from being part of the first Canadian women's soccer team to qualify for the Olympics, Chapman played on the Canadian team at last year's FIFA Women's World Cup in China and helped Notre Dame University win an NCAA title while attending the university on a scholarship. The 25-year-old defender and mid-fielder has earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and computer applications at Notre Dame.

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Chapman's family immigrated to Canada 20 years ago. Chapman is a graduate of St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic elementary school and Archbishop Dennis O'Connor Catholic High School in Ajax.

Her family has been attending St. Francis de Sales Parish for 18 years.

Their pastor, Fr. Roy Roberts, calls Chapman “a wonderful role model and a great kid.” Roberts said the parish has “adopted” Chapman and the entire women's soccer team during the Olympics which means they would follow their progress closely.

He also arranged for a banner to be signed after some Sunday Masses. Children, teens and adults left messages like “Bring home the gold” and “Good luck.” The banner was delivered to the soccer team by one of her teammate's parents heading to China.

You could call them a typical “soccer family,” with both parents driving their two children, Candace and her younger brother Dominic, to soccer games “from one end of Ontario to the next, one end of North America to the next,” her father, Gerard, says with a laugh.

Gerard was a volunteer assistant coach and manager for both of them.

Her mother, Margaret, says Chapman is a “natural athlete” who was involved in gymnastics, basketball and track and field. But it was soccer that stuck.

Gerard describes his daughter as a “a very unassuming person. She's not pretentious at all and is very humble.”

Chapman's parents say faith plays a very important role in their lives.

“Everything is based on that. We've always followed the Catholic faith and based (our lives) on the religious teachings of faith and hope,” Gerard says.

And they add that it was faith, and support from family and friends, which helped their daughter overcome numerous injuries. Chapman missed the 2003 Women's World Cup due to an injury and broke her nose in the 2002 Gold Cup semi-final against Mexico but still managed to play in the final game three days later.

The women's soccer team is ranked ninth in the world and has been called “one of the teams to watch” on CBC Radio's Metro Morning radio program.

Canada won a bronze at the 2007 Pan Am Games, and placed second at the 2006 and 2002 Gold Cups.

After the Olympics, the former Notre Dame All-American will be joining the University of Missouri soccer staff as a volunteer coach.

“She 's a very determined young lady. Once she sets her mind on a task, something that she wants to achieve,” Margaret says, “she goes wholeheartedly into it.”

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