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Canadian soccer players riding Olympic wave

Lauren Sesselmann, sitting, Karina LeBlanc, left, and Kaylyn Kyle had a fun time at the U.S. Open showing off the bronze medals they won in London with the Canadian soccer team. Courtesy of Jane McManus

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- Karina LeBlanc has been living out of the same suitcase she took to the London Olympics. A member of the bronze-medal-winning Canadian soccer team, she has just been too busy traveling, taking her medal to the masses, to unpack.

"I haven't spent more than five days in any city since London -- it's been go, go, go, and I love it," LeBlanc said. "Honestly, to see the reaction in people's faces and being the reason why they have those emotions, it's pretty powerful. And right now, if that's what it takes -- for us to live a bit longer out of our luggage and in our hotel room -- then that's fine because this isn't an experience that we're going to have again in our lifetime.”

"Plus," said her teammate Lauren Sesselmann, "we're young and we love to travel, love to meet new people, so getting that opportunity is awesome."

The two, along with teammate Kaylyn Kyle, were at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Tuesday night to catch part of Andy Roddick's match before it was suspended because of the weather. They had their bronze medals around their necks in a Tennis Channel suite.

"I say they're like our new boyfriends," Kyle laughed.

Soccer has taken them all over the world as part of the national team, but winning a bronze medal has changed their lives. Kyle, from Saskatoon, the largest city in Saskatchewan (population about 234,000), said people in her remote region are proud that a local player helped the Canadian effort.

"It's pretty cool when you get messages from girls that are 6, 7 years old saying you're their idol. As a 23-year-old, that's pretty inspiring, and it makes me get out of bed and train harder than the next girl so I keep my spot on the team. I'm from a small town; no one's come out of there for soccer."

The medal seems to be a way people can instantly connect to the experience the Canadian team had, which included victory and some controversy.

"I think it's part of our journey to see how people react to the medal," LeBlanc said. "You're always around other Olympic athletes so you think it's incredible, but to see the pure joy, the pure love people have just to touch it, some people start crying immediately -- and not just little kids, grown people. It's incredible to see what this means to so many other people and not just us. And that's the great thing about the Olympics."