Loved ones say 'hugging and screaming' followed historic Canadian women's softball win

·4 min read
Canada’s women’s softball team poses for a photo with the Canadian flag after their win on Tuesday over Mexico in the bronze medal game at the Tokyo Olympics. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Canada’s women’s softball team poses for a photo with the Canadian flag after their win on Tuesday over Mexico in the bronze medal game at the Tokyo Olympics. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

When the Canadian women's softball team clinched their history-making game on Tuesday, screaming and cheers erupted more than 10,000 kilometres away in the Caira home.

"It was just such an exciting and very emotional [moment]," said Marc Caira.

His daughter, 32-year-old Jenna Caira, was one of 13 women who led Canada to secure its first-ever Olympic podium win in softball.

It was a high-pressure moment for the team. Softball only returned to the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020 because the sport is popular in Japan. The last time the sport made it to the Games was for Beijing 2008, where the team finished fourth.

But for Jenna, her journey to the Olympic podium started even earlier.

Her parents say she was just four years old when she discovered her passion for softball. She's been pursing her goal ever since.

Tina Mackenzie/CBC
Tina Mackenzie/CBC

It's with that in mind that, crowded around a screen in the family room of their Toronto home, Jenna's parents brothers, and sisters all hugged one another and cried tears of joy after the team's win.

"Everyone just jumped up, we were all sitting downstairs in our family room and we all just jumped up, and we're screaming," her mother, Helan Caira, said.

"Hugging and screaming."

'You feel their pressure'

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenna's family had planned on traveling to Japan to watch her play. They had booked flights and hotel rooms and even purchased tickets to all the games.

Forced to watch from afar, her parents say it has been an emotional few days leading up to the event.

"It's just that you feel their pressure," Marc said.

"When you look at what these girls had to do to succeed the way that they have is truly remarkable."

Matt Slocum/The Associated Press
Matt Slocum/The Associated Press

Jenna's fiancé, Eric Sullivan, says the moment was surreal.

"Heart beating out of my chest, but when ... the girls realized the dream that they had been working a lifetime for, preserving through the ups and the down, they're living their dream," he said.

"I'm so proud of her for that."

During a phone call with her family after the game, Jenna told CBC Toronto that her family was top-of-mind the moment she won.

"I've been carrying with them this entire journey," she said, adding that she phoned her family as soon as she got the chance.

"It was just really great to have them a part of it and to watch and celebrate with me."

Meanwhile, the family of catcher Natalie Wideman had a much smaller — and very different — viewing party. Just her mom, dad and husband were there.

Take a look at their reply when CBC's Greg Ross asked how they celebrated:

Canada pulled ahead following tied score

The game saw strong moves from both sides, despite heavy winds and rain pelting down on players at Toyko's Yokohoma Stadium.

While the Canadian squad opened the scoring of the game, Mexico fought back, tying the game in the fifth inning.

But Mexico's plays weren't quite enough to throw Canada off its game. Players made some late-game moves and stole a final point.

The game ended 3-2. You can read more about the individual plays here.

WATCH | Canada pulls ahead from Mexico to claim bronze prize:

Japan won its second straight gold medal, beating the United States 2-0 and adding to its victories of 1996, 2000 and 2004. Canada lost to the U.S. and Japan by one run in both games.

The win adds to a growing list of medals secured by Team Canada at the Olympics, all of which have been won by women.

But Tuesday's match was about more than medals — it was about redemption, said head coach Mark Smith.

"It [was] a chance to go out on their own terms, a chance to write a page of history," he said following the win Tuesday.

Earning a medal is one thing, but knowing the effort that went into making it happen made the moment all the more special, Smith added.

"To see them realize that tonight together — as well as their families back home that get to also bask in that success — it's a pretty satisfying feeling," he said.

Win marks the end of the road for some players

Because the event is not included in the events for the 2024 Games in Paris, the team's sprint to the Olympics also marked some players' last chance at a podium prize.

One of those athletes — Lauren Regula — says the achievement has been a long time coming — 13years, to be specific.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

"It ended in heartbreak in 2008 and to be on the other side ... I don't know if I have processed what's happened," she said in a post-game interview.

Teammate Sara Groenewegen agrees.

"I think it validates all the sacrifices I have made, and all my teammates have made," she said.

Matt Slocum/The Associated Press
Matt Slocum/The Associated Press

That sentiment is shared by Jenna's parents, who said the best part of watching their daughter play was knowing she was following her dream — and inspiring other girls to do the same.

"Jenna is the inspiration for the next generation," Marc said.

"It was a proud moment."

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