As North America was either sleeping or slowly yawning itself into the throes of a new work day on Wednesday, soccer teams representing Canada and Japan played an early evening tilt on a sunny midsummer night in Sapporo, Japan.
Team Canada tied Team Japan 1-1, but the player wearing No. 5 for Canada made Olympic history. Quinn became first out non-binary transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.
Quinn, who plays for the NWSL’s OL Reign, was already known to soccer fans. They are a seasoned, scrappy and world-class midfielder.
And last August, they revealed something greater than their position on the pitch or their stats.
Two months later, during an interview on The Trans Sporter Room podcast, they made it known their play is a platform, and they intend to use it.
“It’s a place for me to trailblaze as a trans athlete,” Quinn said. “I want to use my platform. One of the reasons I came out was to use my platform and I’m hoping with my voice can help uplift other trans voices in our community.”
On Wednesday, Quinn’s play at midfield did all the talking. Quinn was sprinting with speedy attackers, winning possession in the air, and in the game’s 43rd minute, stopped a potential scoring threat with a well-timed tackle to defend Canada’s 1-0 lead.
The second half was more of the same. Twice, they disrupted Japan’s attempts to send deep passes towards the goal, and scrambled to intercept and contain Japan’s second-half push.
The only thing that slowed them down was seeing their No. 5 on the substitution board. Canada head coach Bev Priestman subbed the midfielder-defender out in the 69th minute.
You could see the twinge of dismay on their face as they jogged off the pitch. Quinn is a competitor, and competitors never want to leave the fight with the game in the balance.
Japan’s Manu Iwabuchi, who recently signed to play for Arsenal, scored a breakaway goal in the 82nd-minute to tie the match. Both teams tried furious attacks and counter attacks for the rest of the match but couldn’t break the deadlock.
Despite the tie, inclusion in sports netted another win in a summer that has been full of them.
This was another big one, though it was understated. Fans are barred from stadiums due to Tokyo’s state of emergency over Covid-19. As a result, Quinn was saluted by their teammates for a well-played match, instead of Team Canada’s roaring fans.
But you can be sure that extra cheers came from a distance across the world, including smiles and claps from this reporter watching on a computer thousands of miles away.
Quinn came to these Olympics to play and set a new tone for sports. They’ve already accomplished that, and they’re just getting started.