Some 2 1/2 months after winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics, Desiree Scott says she is still pinching herself.
"You see a sign that (says) Olympic gold medallist and every time you read that, it solidifies that much more what we accomplished," said the 34-year-old midfielder from Winnipeg. "It's still settling in but it's such a proud moment and honour to be part of that squad."
The gold-medal gang is getting back together this week for a "Celebration Tour," convening ahead of friendlies against New Zealand in Ottawa on Saturday at TD Place and Oct. 27 at Montreal's Saputo Stadium.
The Canadian women have not played since a penalty shootout win over Sweden in the Aug. 6 Olympic final in Yokohama, Japan.
They last played at home on May 18, 2019, when they blanked Mexico 3-0 at BMO Field in Toronto in a warmup match ahead of the 2019 World Cup in France. The 29 matches since then have all been played away from home.
"We're absolutely over the moon … We are beyond pumped to be back in Canada," said Scott, who plays her club soccer for Kansas City in the NWSL "There's something different about wearing the Canada red in your home country. And I know fans are going to be excited to get out and see us live."
"To be able to bring this home in front of our fans and really celebrate and feel that support right in those stands is going to be incredible," she added.
While intended as a celebration, the tour also serves as a reunion for the Olympians who were slated to hold their first team dinner planned for Monday.
"And it's going to be just, I think, electric," said Scott. "We all kind of went our separate ways after Tokyo so it'll be great to catch up, see what everyone's been doing post-gold medal and really just catch up and relish and relive those moments that happened this past summer."
Forward Deanne Rose, who has 61 caps for Canada, is also looking forward to a reunion with teammates and fans.
"We'll get to really take in what we've done," said. the 22-year-old from Alliston, Ont., who plays for Reading in England "I don't think we were able to fully take it in in Tokyo because of the (COVID) restrictions and because of everything. So it's great to be back with the group."
Coach Bev Priestman has called in all 22 members of the Olympic squad along with four additions: Marie Levasseur from France's Fleury FC, Victoria Pickett from the NWSL's Kansas City team, Jade Rose from Harvard University, and Nikayla Small from Wake Forest University.
Scott, who has won 167 caps for Canada as well as bronze medals in both the 2012 and '16 Olympics, had thought Tokyo might be her swansong, especially given the one-year delay in staging the Games. But that has changed.
"I thought after the Olympics I was done. But winning that gold medal, being away from the game for a year (during the pandemic) really re-ignited the flame for me," said the tenacious five-foot-two holding midfielder known as The Destroyer, who doubles as a certified Zumba workout instructor off the pitch.
"Being a part of this team, how much I love it, how much of a family we are, how much I still love the sport, it's definitely given me some things to think about during this off-season. Retirement is a question but it's not a 'for sure' right now."
Canada is currently ranked sixth in the world, compared to No. 23 for New Zealand.
The two countries met at the last two World Cups. They played to a scoreless draw in Edmonton in June 2015, with Canada winning 2-0 in Grenoble, France, in June 2019.
Canada won 3-0 the last time the two met, at a tournament in China in November 2019.
The Canadian women are 8-1-4 all-time against the Football Ferns, with the lone loss coming in their first meeting in December 1987.
Canada's next official matches will be in July at the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship. Scott says the goal is to build on the Olympics.
"It's a stepping-stone for our program," she said. "We're hoping to just continue raising the bar from here."
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2021
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press