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CIS star shares her humbling experiences in and out of the sport

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When Cynthia Leblanc was named a first-team Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) All-Star at the end of the last school year, she was frustrated. That’s because in her mind, she had not reached her full potential. In all her selflessness and humility, she knew she could be better. So, instead of taking a job placement this fall, she decided to compete for one last championship run with the Gee-Gees women’s soccer team.

Training with her teammates during the winter made her realize how much she would miss the team. She decided to travel to Tanzania this past summer to do her placement there instead of Ottawa, so she could play one last season with her beloved Gees.

Many factors led her to Tanzania, but her love of animals coupled with the country’s wildlife helped make it an obvious choice. While she was there she volunteered at an English school to help with lessons. Though Leblanc only spent a few weeks overseas, she says the trip had a real impact on her.

“Coming back here, I find I have new ideas and in general I’m a different person,” she says. “I can’t put into words what it brought me.”

Despite her reluctance to leave, becoming a Gee-Gee wasn’t even the original plan. With her skill set, she was first accepted to play in the in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). But two weeks before she was scheduled to head to the University of Connecticut, the NCAA declared her ineligible to play. Leblanc couldn’t attend the school because she had not finished at the College d’enseignment general et professional (CÉGEP).

That disappointment led her instead to the U of O, where she went on to become a star goalkeeper for the Gee-Gees.

“It was what I was looking for in Connecticut but a little bit closer to home,” says Leblanc. “It wasn’t intended, but it was one of the best life decisions I made.”

Though she’ll still have a year of eligibility remaining after this season, this will probably be Leblanc’s last year of CIS soccer.

In January, she hopes to land in the pro circuit somewhere in Europe. It’s also her dream to become a member of Canada’s Olympic women’s soccer team. But as Leblanc puts it, the U of O will always be special.

“I have grey and garnet engraved into my heart,” she says.