Soccer superstar Jessie Fleming of London, Ont., leaves mark with awestruck 9-year-old fan
Member of Canadian Olympic gold-medal team spotted fan in replica jersey, so gave the girl the real thing
Jessie Fleming of London, Ont., is a Canadian household name.
Her longstanding tenacity with the national women's soccer team has garnered her much praise, and after this week, so has her appreciation for fans.
The midfielder was instrumental in bringing the team to a gold-medal victory at the Tokyo Olympics this year after she scored late in the semifinal match against the U.S.
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"When Jessie converted the penalty kick, it was awesome," said Nigel Wallis, who was at Ottawa's game against New Zealand on Saturday with his family.
"She's just nerves of steel."
The team has returned to play on Canadian soil more than 29 months since they last took the field at home. The Olympic champs made their long-awaited return twice victorious, on Saturday in Ottawa and Tuesday in Montreal against New Zealand.
Surprise gift from Fleming
Wallis and his daughter Logan, 9, headed down to the fence with a Canadian flag after the weekend win in Ottawa.
Logan was wearing a replica Fleming No. 17 jersey her parents got her soon after the Olympics.
They gave their daughter the jersey because she's a great role model, said Wallis. "She's not the biggest player, she's not the fastest player, but she's really tough. She's inspirational — she's super clever on the field."
Fleming spotted Logan in the stands.
"When they were doing their lap of honour, Jessie Fleming saw me in my jersey and ran across the field and got me one of her jerseys," said Logan.
"It was pretty cool."
"My daughter's eyes grew ginormous, the size of a saucer, and she was struck mute," said Wallis. "Jessie just kind of smiled at her, and threw the jersey over the railing and wished her well."
It wasn't just any jersey, either, said Soccer Canada spokesperson Richard Scott. The team had special-edition jerseys with gold lettering for their Canadian victory tour.
Fleming was given three on Saturday afternoon: A match-day jersey, one for the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame and a backup shirt.
"Jessie wasn't supposed to give away her backup jersey before Tuesday," said Scott. "But she got the OK from the equipment team who were able to produce another match-prepared jersey in time before Tuesday's kickoff in Montreal."
That's when Fleming ran across the field to hand off that backup jersey to Logan.
"It was really cool to see a professional athlete at that level have the emotional empathy to see a kid and know that by taking a little extra effort and taking the time out of her day, she could make her day, her week," said Wallis.
"That was really, really nice to see from somebody who's such an elite level athlete."
As for Logan, her hallowe'en is now a no-brainer. She'll be going as Fleming.
Just want to thank <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/canWNT?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#canWNT</a>’s Jessie Fleming. After yesterday’s game, she saw our kid waving a Cdn flag in a replica #17 jersey - and ran all the way across the field to the dugout, and all the way back to ask whether our daughter wanted her jersey. So incredibly kind <a href="https://twitter.com/CANWNT?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CANWNT</a> 1/2 <a href="https://t.co/Y4r86sQ8Bi">pic.twitter.com/Y4r86sQ8Bi</a>—@nigelwallis