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FIFA referee Carol Anne Chénard follows mother Sandra as Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime honouree

By Stephen Priel

A decade after her mom earned an Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for 25+ years of work as a speed skating official, Carol Anne Chénard has been recognized with the same honour for her work as a soccer referee.

The award recognizes the 15+ years she served as a FIFA international referee, plus many more on local pitches starting with Gloucester soccer, before retiring this past fall.

Carol Anne Chénard. File photo

Had the Sports Awards’ annual banquet not been called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chénard would have received the award at a ceremony this week.

“It was a real honour to have my career recognized in this way in the town I spent a majority of my life,” Chénard told the Ottawa Sports Pages in a recent interview.

Receiving the award that her mother Sandra earned herself back in 2010 was “another cherry on top,” she added.

Read more (2009 feature): Away from the bright lights – Major League Soccer’s only female referee also coaches Gloucester speedskaters

Growing up in Ottawa, Chénard was once a soccer player herself. She played central midfield and found she naturally possessed the stamina required for the position.

As a teenager, she began refereeing “swarm soccer” — 7 vs. 7 children’s play — before progressing to men’s “old timers,” when one of the teams she refereed wrote to the provincial association about her skill.

“I was receiving good feedback. People were telling me that I had some of the characteristics necessary to become a high-level referee,” said Chénard, who also has 6 World Cup short-track speed skating medals in her collection from her time with the national team.

As an up-and-coming referee, Chénard said she looked up to Sonia Denoncourt, who attended the University of Ottawa and was one of the first female FIFA referees, as someone whose skills she tried to replicate.

Chénard progressed through refereeing ranks, strictly completing the necessary courses and calling the correct number of matches to move further and further up through levels of competition.

Eventually, Chénard said Denoncourt became key to her development on the international level, as the two also trained together.

Carol Anne Chénard refereed the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2010, and again in 2014. File photo

One of Chénard’s career highlights was refereeing in front of her friends and family, including her parents, sister and uncles, in Ottawa at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup — an experience she recalled as “amazing” and an “honour.”

To Chénard, refereeing was a way for her to stay involved with the sport she loved for the long term and in a unique way.

“The best seat in the house (belongs to) the referees,” said Chénard, who decided to retire from her international refereeing career last year amidst the pandemic, on the heels of a cancer diagnosis.

Asked about what kind of advice she would offer to young referees, Chénard said to “surround yourself with good people” because “it takes a lot of hard work.”

“Good people from the soccer community, but also good people in your life, as well, who will support your goals,” underlined the McGill University microbiology/immunology PhD grad. “Stay humble and work hard, because there really are a lot of opportunities at any level.”

Because of the impact her predecessors, such as Denoncourt, and instructors had on her when she was rising through the refereeing ranks, Chénard said she plans to return the favour to the refs of the future.

“I benefited from so many people that took the time and used their experience to help me develop,” explained the 43-year-old. “They invested in me and in the end it had a huge impact on my career.”

Read more on the Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement Award winners via:

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