2021 news chelsea stewart
© Canada Soccer

Putting passion to work

An Olympic soccer bronze medallist in 2012, Chelsea Stewart is taking what she learned as a high-performance athlete and using it to help Hockey Canada work towards another Games

Shannon Coulter
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July 27, 2021
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The email Chelsea Stewart was waiting for would change her life. It would tell her if she would become a member of Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team that would be going to the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing.

The only problem was Vancouver—where the midfielder was based at the time—was experiencing a power outage.

“I couldn’t access my emails or anything,” recalls Stewart, who works today as a manager of hockey operations with Hockey Canada. “I was calling my mom, calling my best friends trying to get them online to check my emails.”

Unfortunately, she didn’t make the team, but her Olympic journey was not over. While back home with her family in Washington, Stewart got a call from one of the team managers. Veteran forward Amber Allen was unable to compete due to a leg injury and the team was considering bringing the then 18-year-old in for the tournament. The team’s only concern was that she had recently sprained her ankle.

“I was in my backyard running, striking the ball to make sure I was good to go because obviously it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on,” Stewart says.

Soon afterwards, she made it to Beijing and served as an alternate. But the moment she truly felt like an Olympian came four years later, when Stewart was once again waiting to hear if she made the Olympic team.

“I had my brother and my mom in the room, and they were so nervous. I think they were more nervous than I was,” she says. “I got the call and had a bit of a celebration with them in my room.”

Ahead of London 2012, Stewart says her team had a few goals: create a legacy, leave the game in a better place and reach the podium. Despite being an underdog in the tournament, Team Canada won bronze, marking the first time since Berlin 1936 that Canada had won an Olympic medal in a traditional team summer sport.

“Having those (goals) realized is obviously a dream come true” says Stewart, who appeared in four games in London. “I think it shows to people that you can impact others, you can accomplish your dreams.”

***

The road to an Olympic medal began when Stewart was about five years old, with a little inspiration from her older sister, Emily.

“I wanted to do everything that she did. I idolized her as a kid and I still do,” Stewart says. “So, when she was out on the soccer field and I had to go watch her games on the sideline, it was ‘Mom, I want to go out there, I want to do what Emily’s doing.’”

Her passion for soccer was there from the start, and it continued to grow as she grew up with the game. Stewart even had the opportunity to play alongside her sister along the way.

It wasn’t until the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, when she was nine years old, that the midfielder realized her love of soccer could be bigger than playing for her local team. Nine years later, Stewart joined the national team program. She won gold with Team Canada at the 2020 CONCACAF U20 Championship and, in 2009, was named Canadian U20 Player of the Year. As a member of the senior team, Stewart won medals in all four of her Cyprus Cup appearances, including gold in 2011. She also played at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.

Her love for soccer is undeniable, but Stewart is also passionate about hockey. Although she admits she “was not a great hockey player,” she played until she was 14. Everyone in her family has played hockey or has been involved with the game at some point.

Her father, Bill, played for Team Canada in the lead up to the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and played collegiately at the University of Denver. He was a seventh-round pick of the Minnesota North Stars in 1980, playing in their farm system for two years. Bill also helped to create a pair of minor-league teams, the Colorado Eagles and Wenatchee Wild.

“He’s always been involved in starting clubs or helping run them,” Stewart says. “From him, I’ve always been around (hockey), and I love international sport in general. That’s kind of what brought me to Hockey Canada.”

***

It’s been nine years since Stewart won her bronze medal, but almost all her teammates are still involved in sports in some aspect. Some are in Tokyo playing in this year’s Olympics, some pursued coaching or broadcasting, and those like Stewart got into the managerial side.

“It’s a passion,” Stewart says of working in sports. “That fire never burns out, especially when you committed so much of your life to it. It just burns really bright.”

The teamwork aspect of working in sport was one of the reasons why Stewart joined Hockey Canada two years ago.

“I think for me, transitioning from athlete to fan, to helping our future athletes in the hockey side, has been exciting for me because I know what our athletes are going through.”

As hockey begins to return across the country, Stewart says it’s like the first sign of normalcy. Part of her duties over the next few months include helping Team Canada prepare for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, and the location of the event is bringing back memories.

“It’s a bit of a full circle for me,” she says. “I’m really excited to help our teams prep for that.”

With her bronze medal safely stored in a drawer under her bed, Stewart is looking forward to cheering on her former teammates competing in Tokyo.

“As a fan, it’s a different type of nerves. But I also get to enjoy it a little bit more. I feel obviously a lot less pressure.

“I love being a fan and I love getting to watch people I care about really doing the country proud.”

For more information:

Dominick Saillant
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
514-895-9706
[email protected]

 

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
[email protected]

 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
Office: 403-777-4567
Mobile: 905-906-5327
[email protected]

 

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