Stephanie Labbe kept smiling.
The ball was just placed on the spot by Swedish striker Kosovars Asllani, to take the first penalty shootout kick of the women’s 2020 Olympic soccer final. Two hours of football couldn’t separate Sweden and Canada, they played amidst the sweltering heat in Tokyo, after all their entire lifetime of training and all the dreams were depended upon those 10 spot-kicks.
Canadian goalkeeper Labbe was still smiling even after being under so much pressure, 12 yards away.
Olympic gold medalist and penalty shootout hero Labbe isn’t smiling two days later. She’s been spending most of her time in a dark room, it’s been almost 48 hours there.
She can’t process any of the thousands of congratulatory messages and media inquiries flooding her phone in the aftermath of Canada’s historic triumph — the country’s first ever Olympic gold in the women’s soccer event — because she’s overstimulated and “completely dissociated” from her victory.
Labbe takes us back to the first game of the tournament against hosts Japan to explain her numbness after realising her achievement of a lifelong dream.
Labbe sustained a very painful rib injury during the first-half of the game. Prophetically, she dod proceed to save a penalty earlier but unfortunately she wasn’t able to continue, and was substituted.
The injury would dredge and then stir up a lot of anxieties and mental baggage that had built up over the previous 18 months on her, her insecurity about the place on the national team, the postponement of the Olympics, a new national team coach, and the inability to train as a team for an extended period of time.
“I don’t think I realized at the time how much I was holding onto, how much the challenges of the past year and a half had affected me and were still underlying there in my system — getting to the Olympics wasn’t just a magical cure for all of this.” Labbe told CNN.
“That takes a toll over time and sometimes we don’t always see or feel what that toll is until something comes in and kind of shakes it up a bit.”
“That’s what that injury did … it was like the water was almost getting to the brim. I felt good and confident but just that one extra thing is what spilt it over.”