Friendship and family adds luster to gridiron pinnacle of Lisa Gomes

The privilege of competing on home soil for Canada represented the culmination of a grand gridiron dream for Lisa Gomes. Having long established herself as a fixture for the Calgary Rage’s running game, simultaneously adding to an admirable legacy as one of Canada’s most admirable ambassadors at the Women’s World Football Games (WWFG), there is no ceiling to her potential.

Undoubtedly, the calendar year of 2017 represented more than just a dream year for Gomes, it signified a paradigm shift. Starting with another memorable stint at the WWFG, sandwiched in between the training camp for Team USA Women, and the always compelling AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, in Orlando, Florida, it was the kind of major league setting that empowered the growing importance of female football and its remarkable competitors.

Subsequently, the status of Gomes as a world-class player reached new heights. Donning the colours of the Detroit Dark Angels, it represented a new chapter in her gridiron odyssey, growing as an athlete and a person. Considering that other Team Canada stars, such as Emilie Belanger and Cassey Brick (both with the Chicago Force) have also competed south of the border in the Women’s Football Alliance, it is part of a fascinating new movement, which speaks to the tremendous talent emerging from Canada.

Gomes (wearing #17) on the line of scrimmage against the United States in the gold medal game of the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds (Credit: Diz Ruptive Photography)

With the IFAF Women’s World Football Championships representing the third element of this landmark year in Gomes’ distinguished career, the sense of teamwork took on an even more profound meaning. From the outset, the prestige of playing for Canada was enhanced by several unique elements.

Former Calgary Rage teammates Becky Heninger and Alicia Wilson were also part of Canada’s contingent. Along with the fact that Rage competitors such as Esther Hong, Alyssa Quinney and Erin Walton (part of Canada’s reserve roster) among others made the trek to Vancouver to show their support, it personified the sense of friendship and belonging that are among the hallmarks of female football.

Adding luster to the presence of such meaningful people was undoubtedly the most important in her life. With Gomes gaining the opportunity to compete on home soil with her mother, Barbara, in the stands, definitely her biggest fan, it brought with it tremendous relevance. The most positive influence in Gomes’ life, her mother was a never ending source of encouragement and inspiration. Considering that she was a single mom until Gomes was nine, she was also her biggest hero.

A beaming Gomes with her mother proudly on-hand (Image obtained from Facebook)

With an amazing body of work that also involved track and field, soccer, badminton and a chance to star on the Calgary Irish rugby team, Gomes’ athletic odyssey would never have been as treasured without the proud presence of her mother. Although Gomes’ gridiron presence is embellished by a warm, reassuring smile, defining the love of the game, there was an outpouring of emotion seeing her mother in the stands,

“It was incredibly meaningful. I definitely cried a bit, it was wonderful seeing the love and support from her, my family and friends in the stands.”

Considering that the Women’s Worlds were contested in Vancouver, British Columbia, running parallel to Canada’s 150th anniversary, there was a sense of history that made this gridiron journey so much more profound for Gomes and the other inspiring women donning the Canadian jersey.

In recalling the first time that she wore the Team Canada jersey, it quickly became a strong symbol of the years of effort, the sweat and sacrifice that culminated in this remarkable opportunity to experience a treasured pinnacle.

“It was surreal actually! Just getting off the Canadian bus was a great experience. Everything was laid out for us in the change rooms. It gave me butterflies walking onto the field.”

Also sharing in this captivating journey with Gomes was kicker Carly Dyck. The bonds of friendship between the two were strengthened over the course of the seven days that the quest for gold began in Vancouver. Comprising one of the most remarkable friendships in female football, their shared football journey, highlighted by gracing the gridiron together in Vancouver, equally represented a cherished chapter for women’s sports in Canada.

The ascent towards such a summit has its origins at the WWFG, where Dyck and Gomes made multiple appearances. Seemingly, every turn in their gridiron career, whether it was competing for opposing teams in the WWCFL (Dyck with the Lethbridge Steel and later the Saskatoon Valkyries), the 2016 Women’s Nationals, where Gomes donned the white and blue of Team Alberta, whereas Dyck was adorned in Saskatchewan’s trademark green jersey, there was always a friendly rivalry between the two.

Even at the most recent WWFG in Orlando, Dyck was part of Team Red while Gomes suited up with Team Blue. To be teammates together in Vancouver was one well worth the wait. With their debut taking place against Australia, one which saw Dyck emerge as the game’s leading scorer, even outscoring the opposing team, it signaled her arrival as one of the brightest stars in the game today.

Gomes (left) and Carly Dyck in the Team Canada whites (Image from the Carly Dyck Collection)

Prior to opening kickoff, Gomes shares a moment of levity, as the two longtime friends and new teammates were definitely euphoric over the chance to be part of such a landmark moment in Canadian female sporting history, “Everyone has their own pre-game rituals and I know “pump up” music was big for most of the players. Carly and I definitely encouraged each other on the field!”

Qualifying for the gold medal game, it represented an amazing new chapter in the fantastic friendship between Gomes and Dyck. Although the outcome was a silver medal, one that brought with it some sullen feelings in the aftermath of a hard fought loss to the United States, facing them was definitely an exhilarating challenge.

At the heart of the narrative, the chance for this poignant duo to be among an arsenal of Canadian stars, part of the resonating theme of friendship and a collaborative history is one woven together skillfully. Their remarkable efforts have shown that Vancouver is more than just a stop on the road towards further glory. Both Gomes and Dyck represented the game’s endless capacity for renewed hopes and dreams, dutifully encouraging an assured stability for the future, funneled towards the collective goal of creating grand memories that shall be treasured for a lifetime.

“It was awesome! We had so much fun on and off the field. It was great to be able to share this experience with her. She is an amazing athlete.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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