staff, August 15, 2012

Former star Illini soccer player Emily Zurrer sends back her final update as part of our ongoing Big Ten Olympic Journals for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In this post, she wraps up her experience and describes Team Canada's thrilling bronze medal match.

Here's what Zurrer sent us after the Olympics ended.

"I apologize for the lack of blog updates! Everything has been so crazy that I haven't even found time to respond to messages let alone sit down and try to put on paper what has happened this past week. It has been a roller coaster of emotions and a whirlwind journey. This is one I can't even put into words, but I will try my best.

Former Illinois soccer All-American Emily Zurrer is playing for Canada in the 2012 London Olympics. The three-time All Big Ten player chronicles her journey here for Read all of our Olympic journals.

"I think my last update ended just before our semifinal game against the U.S.. If you read that blog or follow women's soccer, you would know that we have a longstanding history with the Americans. We play them more than any other team in the world and although we have come close many times, they are more times than not on the winning end of things.

"If you watched the semifinal game, you would know that it was one that will go down in history. It has been said that it may have been the greatest soccer game every played in the history of women's soccer. Three times we went up, and three times the U.S. responded, sending the game into extra time after over 90 minutes of football war, and a controversial refereeing decision that led to a PK and USA's third goal. Our captain, Christine Sinclair, had one of the most prolific games in Canadian history, leading our team and scoring a hat trick. She was later named our Canadian Olympic team flag bearer for her inspirational play throughout the tournament. We could not have been more proud.

"Watching from the stands was almost unbearable. I literally thought I was going to have a heart attack. When I said I thought I was going to be more nervous watching than playing, I wasn't lying. It is WAY more nerve wracking watching. Now I know how my parents have felt all these years! Not only was my heart in palpitations for 120 minutes, I burst into happy tears every time we scored. Talk about an emotional wreck!

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"After 30 minutes of extra time, about 30 seconds before the game was going to be decided on penalty kicks, the US scored and our hearts were shattered. We had played our hearts out and left it all on the field and in the end came up ten seconds short. This time the tears were not 'happy' ones. But despite the defeat, I have never been more proud of my team and proud to be Canadian than after that game.

"We gave ourselves until that next morning to mourn the loss and get all of our feelings and frustrations out. We even had a team 'venting' meeting where we poured it all out and made sure that nothing would hold us back from winning the bronze. After that, it was time to move on and focus on the next game. We still had a chance to stand on the podium and win a medal for our country, and we were not going to let anything stand in the way of that.

"Well if the football Gods weren't on our side vs. the U.S., they were definitely on our side in the bronze medal match vs. France. I think France may have hit the post two or three times and had another one cleared off the line. You could tell we were physically tired. But, in the theme of keeping things dramatic, Diana Matheson calmly slotted one home in the last 30 seconds of the game. Two minutes later, we had won a bronze medal.

"We went ballistic. Everything became worth it in that moment. I can't even describe it. We were so happy and so proud. We had felt so much love and support from Canada, and to win a medal for our country…there is no greater feeling.

"It was a storybook ending to an incredible roller coaster of a journey. For sure it was an enormous disappointment for me to not be on the field, but it really was all part of our Olympic journey, and the feeling of winning a medal with my team overcomes the heartache I felt for not being able to play. This medal represents more than just the last two weeks – it is the reward for years of dedication, sacrifice and resiliency.

"And it is even more ironic because a year ago, we were knocked out of the World Cup by France after they thrashed us 4-0 in our second game. We ended up coming dead last in that tournament and for most of us, it was the lowest point in our soccer careers. We were broken and vulnerable.

"But thanks to a lot of hard work, perseverance, a man named John Herdman and his staff, and the support of an entire nation behind us, this country was finally able to watch their flag rise for a summer team sport since 1936. Pretty sweet!

"When the game was over and we had finished showering and singing Celine Dion?s the Power of Love, we were bussed to Wembley for the medal ceremony.

"*Side note: Celine wrote us a letter of congratulations after we won? SUCCESS!"

"We chowed down on pizza and watched the final game in a packed house at Wembley stadium. The U.S. won 2-1 in front of a great atmosphere of 80,000 people, which was a record for women?s football in the Olympics. Robyn and I weren?t able to go on the podium, as only 18 get to go on and we were not part of the current 'active' roster when the games were finished, but we were presented with them afterwards.

"I won?t go into the details of the days that followed, but after a series of interviews and appearances, we were finally able to celebrate. My sister and Mom were there in London, so it was so great to be able to celebrate with them and the other families and friends before they headed back to North America. We were even hosted on a yacht cruise on the Thames River.

"To cap it all off, on our last night the Closing Ceremony were held and if you watched them you would know that they did NOT disappoint. You may have even seen a glimpse of myself and my teammates rocking out to the Spice Girls with our jean jackets on. HAHA!

"We left the village at 5 am that morning to head to Heathrow and when we arrived in Vancouver, we were greeted with a gigantic screaming mob of fans who had come to welcome us home. Canada has gone bananas. We could feel the love in London through messages and some social media, but to actually see the impact the team has had on the nation was pretty special. I was speechless.

"I have now been home for approximately one day, and life back in the real word is tough and full of hard decisions. Should I wear my medal to bed? Shouldn?t I?

?Oh waaaaait, you mean I actually have to make my own food and do my own laundry now? It hasn?t been easy as you can see.

"All jokes aside, I want to thank everyone for all of the support these past few weeks and over the years. The outpouring of love and support has been incredible and I am so thankful for every single message. I also want to give a big shout out to Janet Rayfield and Illinois soccer – two of the biggest reasons for my success.

"Have a great rest of summer everyone and much love. THE END!"

Editor's note: Look back at Zurrer's Illinois bio page at and find her entries from London on her Big Ten Olympic archive page.