London, England (August 5, 2012)-The flight to Heathrow airport was filled with chatter as most passengers were traveling to enjoy a week filled with the Summer Olympics. As one of the excited travelers making my way to London for the week, I shared in the enthusiasm with various people as we talked about the events we would be seeing. When I brought up women’s soccer two words kept popping up from the different people that I spoke to throughout the day: Abby Wambach.
She is one of the more popular players on the U.S. Women’s National Team and thanks to her late game heroics last summer against Brazil at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, also one of the most recognizable. But with the fresh young face of Alex Morgan breaking onto the scene this past year and Hope Solo continuing to find her way in the headlines, even Wambach sometimes gets a little over looked. The past two weeks as she has led the U.S. team to the semifinals, the focus is now centered on her.
Right now Wambach is in the midst of a historic Olympic run having scored in all four games that the U.S. has played in as they are set to play Canada on Monday at Old Trafford in Manchester with the winner going on to the gold medal match on Thursday. A win on Thursday would give the U.S. women their third consecutive gold medal and their fourth in five attempts.
Wambach’s place in U.S. women’s soccer will certainly go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game. The 32 year-old forward has cemented her place as one of the most respected players worldwide as she has recorded 142 international goals and is now only 16 behind the legend Mia Hamm who currently holds the record at 158.
Though Wambach’s career may be far from over, Wambach has spent the better part of the last year nursing a nagging Achilles injury that has a left a question mark as to how much more her body can endure. The 5-foot-11 Wambach tends to take a beating on the field since most defenders find the only way they can stop her is to try to knock her down. Case in point the sucker punch she received from Lady Andrade during the 3-0 win over Colombia in group play last weekend. Although it left Wambach sporting a black eye, it has failed to slow her down so far in the tournament.
“I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline, I’m not quite sure exactly what the reason is, but I’m not going to ask questions at this point,” Wambach said after the 2-0 victory over New Zealand in the quarterfinals. “I’m just playing pain-free for the first time in a long time.”
Perhaps she is just getting caught up in Olympic fever but Wambach also mentioned this weekend in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl that she is planning on playing through the next Olympics in 2016 when she will be 36.
Whether or not we have one or five more years to watch her incredible career, the next week will hopefully bring another reward to the player that has brought her fans so much. And those fans are definitely paying attention here in London.