The Players: Karina LeBlanc

Karina LeBlanc remembers herself as the quiet one when she first joined Canada’s national team in the late 1990s. It is funny how that sounds today, because chatty, inspirational, spiritual, funny: that’s the “KK” we know today.

Karina LeBlanc remembers herself as the quiet one when she first joined Canada’s national team in the late 1990s. It is funny how that sounds today, because chatty, inspirational, spiritual, funny: that’s the “KK” we know today.



Quiet, Karina, really?



Well, when LeBlanc was still a teenager, she was joining the ranks with pioneers and veterans like Gerri Donnelly, Charmaine Hooper, Silvana Burtini, Andrea Neil, Janine Helland, Suzanne Muir and Nicci Wright. She was on the team, yet far less experienced than the older stars that would win the 1998 CONCACAF Women’s Championship and qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup for a second time.



“I was the new kid on the block, so I was the quiet one,” said LeBlanc, who remembers fondly her past teammates like team stars Hooper and Neil, first roommate Helland, and goalkeeper mentor Wright. “There were some younger players at the time, too, however, like Amy Walsh and Sharolta Nonen, players that helped me feel not so young.”



In 1999, LeBlanc was part of her first FIFA Women’s World Cup team at USA 1999. Twelve years on, she hopes to take part in her fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup at Germany 2011. Only Neil, her one-time teammate and now assistant coach since 2009, has participated in four FIFA Women’s World Cups for Canada.



It didn’t take long for LeBlanc to become her lively self and a stalwart in the national program. She had her breakout year in 2002, which turned out to be Wright’s last season. She tied Wright’s single-season record for clean sheets in 2002 (five) and then broke Wright’s all-time record in 2003.



Today, LeBlanc is part of one of the world’s best international goaltending trios heading to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Her and Erin McLeod have been “1a” and “1b” since the mid 2000s, while the addition of Stephanie Labbé has arguably given Canada a “1c” in goal, too.



“I think our relationship is great,” said LeBlanc. “It is different, definitely a relationship that is rare. It has just been that way from the start. In the end, it has made us all better goalkeepers.”



LeBlanc is Canada’s all-time leader in several goalkeeper categories, most notably matches played (86) and clean sheets (37). She is Canada’s only two-time CONCACAF champion (1998, 2010) and also a one-time Olympian (2008).



At the professional level, she most recently played for the Philadelphia Independence (2010) and Los Angeles Sol (2009) of Women’s Professional Soccer. She won a regular-season title in 2009 and reached the playoff final in both in 2009 and 2010. She previously played for the Boston Breakers in the old WUSA in the early 2000s, but also played for the New Jersey Wildcats of the W-League where she won Goalkeeper of the Year honours in 2005.



From watching 90,000 fans cram the Rose Bowl for the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Canada was eliminated in group play) to experiencing 75,000 expected fans at the Olympiastadion Berlin for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup opener against Germany, it will have been quite the ride for LeBlanc the goalkeeper should she make the squad come June.



“You want to live each moment like it is brand new because every FIFA Women’s World Cup is different,” said LeBlanc. “It is going to be a completely different environment in Germany.”







Every few days in the lead up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, CanadaSoccer.com will highlight a prospective player that will take part in this summer’s big tournament. The series will run in the two-month lead up to Canada’s opening match on 26 June against host Germany. Canada, whose title sponsor is Winners and presenting sponsor is Teck, will take part in its fifth FIFA Women’s World Cup™ from 26 June to 17 July. Canada has also already qualified for a sixth time as host of the next FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 2015.



Where’s Karina

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With Canada’s national team taking a break from camp until 1 May, players have taken the time to visit friends and family from home and abroad. LeBlanc visited France where she met up with former Los Angeles Sol teammate Camille Abily. LeBlanc was in Paris and then Lyon, but will be off to Venezia (Venice) and Firenze (Florence) next before returning to Roma for 1 May.

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