Don’t forget that the US Women’s team take on Australia tonight at 7:30pm for their opening game of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
(athlete and role model)
Mary Abigail “Abby” Wambach is one of the most decorated US soccer players in history. Wambach hopes to lead the 2015 US Women’s World Cup team to the one trophy and title that still eludes her, the World Cup.
Born in Rochester (NY), Abby is the youngest of seven, so it should be no surprise that she developed a physical and mental toughness that has helped her excel athletically. Her older siblings were also athletes and she remembers growing up wanting to see her name in the high school banners that were adorned with some of her siblings names. That dream would fall short during her senior year when her soccer team would give up a 3-0 lead in the state finals to lose 4-3 in double overtime.
“It was freezing cold, I was wearing tights, I remember the whistle blowing; I just fell to my knees and wanted to disappear. Those moments have been rare in my life, where I’ve felt so embarrassed and responsible, but those moments are the ones you learn from the most,” said Wambach in a US Soccer interview.
“That was one of the pivotal moments where I stopped making excuses for myself, and I really felt the loss, felt the pain, and that kind of drove me.”
“These high school championships, which seem simple and trivial, can actually be the starting point of how I can get over the 2002, 2007 losses of the World Cup,” says Wambach. “I’ve never won a World Cup – and I want to change that in 2015.”
And despite all her success, Wambach is no stranger to adversity.
In July 2008, just one month before she was slated for the 2008 Olympics, Wambach collided with a Brazilian player during an international friendly. She was immediately taken to the hospital where X-rays revealed fractures to her tibia and fibula. Wambach underwent surgery to have a titanium rod inserted in her leg and was prevented from playing in those Olympic games.
However, one year later in July of 2009, Wambach would score her 100th international goal in her second international match after returning from her injury. This made her the fastest of the four other American players who had previously reached 100 goals.
Two years later, in the quarter final game of 2011 Women’s World Cup, Wambach would score a header goal in stoppage time after the 120th minute to even the score at 2–2 against the Brazilians. The U.S. went on to win the game on penalty kicks and advanced to the semi-final. Her goal set a new record for latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition. Her last-minute goal was awarded ESPN’s 2011 ESPY Award for Best Play of the Year.
Today, Wambach is one of the most decorated players in US soccer history:
- Competed in three World Cups…four after tonight’s match
- Has scored 22 goals in 29 global tournament matches
- Has won two Olympic gold medals, finished third twice at the Women’s World Cup, and finished second at the 2011 World Cup
- Six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award (2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013)
- WUSA’s Rookie of the Year award for her performance during the 2001 WUSA season
- In 2011, awarded the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball at the FIFA Women’s World Cup
- Won the 2011 ESPY Award for Best Play for her 122nd-minute equalizing goal against Brazil during the quarterfinal
- Named the 2011 Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year and received the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, the first individual soccer player ever – man or woman – to receive the award
- Awarded the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, becoming the first American to win the award in ten years after Mia Hamm was voted the winner in 2001 and 2002. Only four other women had won the award previously in its 12-year history
And, as inspiring as all of her accomplishments are, Wambach is one of a small class of elite athletes of the 21st century that has managed to also remain a positive role model.
In addition to all of her philanthropy, I love the example Wambach sets about being true to yourself. In 2013, Wambach married her long-time partner, Sarah Huffman. Amused by all of the media attention, Abby said:
“I can’t speak for other people, but for me, I feel like gone are the days that you need to come out of a closet. I never felt like I was in a closet. I never did. I always felt comfortable with who I am and the decisions I made.”
That’s why I find Abby Wambach inspiring as an athlete, a person and a role model.