10 Things You Didn’t Know About Olympic Soccer Player Hope Solo
While soccer isn’t nearly as popular here as it is in other parts of the world, it seems to get its due in the US during the Olympics, at least. And when the women’s national soccer team won gold after a hotly-contested battle against Brazil at the 2008 Games in Beijing, its members became superstars.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo became instantly popular, due in no small part to her stellar performance against Brazil’s aggressive offense. When it comes to athletes with colorful stories, in fact, Solo has most of them beat. She’s endured nothing less than personal loss, a significant injury and a fair amount of scandal over the course of her career.
Check out 10 things you may not have known about this world-class athlete below.
FAST FACTS ABOUT HOPE SOLO
Solo was born in Richland, Washington on July 30, 1981 and was raised by her mother after her parents divorced at age six. She’s five feet, nine inches tall and is a goalkeeper for the Seattle Sounders Women. She’s been part of the US women’s national soccer team since 2000.
HER FATHER LED A TROUBLED LIFE
Solo’s father, Richard, taught her how to play soccer at age five and was homeless after the divorce, living on the streets of Seattle or in a tent in the woods outside the city. During this time, he kept in touch with his daughter by writing letters.
“In those years, he’d write me long, long letters every single week,” she said. “I have a deep, deep love for my dad, even when he wasn’t around.”
Solo said she never thought of her dad as being transient. “In terms of being ‘homeless,’ I’m always very careful not to define it that way. He chose to live in the woods. He enjoyed it. I’d offer him money, and he’d never take a dime. If I looked for him, I wouldn’t look for him at a homeless shelter,” she said.
In 2001, her father was a “person of interest” in the stabbing death of a realtor. He died suddenly in June 2007 from heart failure before the murder case was fully resolved. So, Solo took it upon herself to clear his name.
“It took about 10 years for his name to be cleared and he wasn’t around for his name to finally be cleared. I just wish he could have lived in peace his last years. That’s all I wished for,” she said.
To matters worse, Solo’s father had never seen his daughter play for Team USA. He meant to attend a game in New Jersey on June 23, 2007, but died just eight days before.
SHE RECENTLY TESTED POSITIVE FOR AN ILLEGAL SUBSTANCE
Earlier this month, the US Anti-Doping Agency issued a public warning to Solo after she tested positive for a prohibited diuretic called Canrenone, According to Solo, the banned substance was in medication that was prescribed to her by a physician.
“I took a medication prescribed by my personal doctor for pre-menstrual purposes that I did not know contained a diuretic,” she said. “Once informed of this fact, I immediately cooperated with USADA and shared with them everything they needed to properly conclude that I made an honest mistake, and that the medication did not enhance my performance in any way.”
Fortunately for Solo, the USADA let her off with just a warning and decided to make no further sanctions, which could have easily prevented her from attending the games in London.
SHE APPEARED DRUNK ON ‘TODAY’
Despite her statement that she’s “someone who believes in clean sport,” Solo admittedly appeared drunk on ‘Today’ in 2008. She recently told ESPN The Magazine that she and the team spent all night partying with actor Vince Vaughn and comedian Steve Bryne after their gold medal win in Beijing.
Then, she and her still-intoxicated teammates went on the morning show at 7am the following day without sleeping. During the interview, a glassy-eyed Solo actually confused the World Cup with the Olympics.
SHE HAD A STINT ON ‘DANCING WITH THE STARS’
Solo appeared on the 13th season of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and was reportedly recruited by pro dancer (and huge soccer fan) Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who was impressed by her footwork in the 2011 World Cup.
During the dance competition, Solo made it all the way to the semifinals, but ultimately lost to J.R. Martinez. Although she was critical of the judging panel throughout the season and described by some as a sore loser, Solo vowed to give a better performance during the upcoming Games.
“It was an amazing opportunity…We have the most amazing fan base and instead of the winning the mirrorball trophy, I’m going to try to win a gold medal this summer at the Olympics,” she said.
SHE CRITICIZED HER COACH AND GOT BOOTED FROM THE TEAM
During a semifinal match against Brazil in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, coach Greg Ryan put Briana Scurry in goal over Solo, despite the fact that Scurry hadn’t played a full match in over three months. Brazil beat the US, 4-0.
Needless to say, the decision wasn’t popular with Solo, who vocally criticized her coach on Canadian TV. “It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves,” she said.
As a result, Ryan dismissed Solo from the third-place match against Norway the following day. Solo didn’t return to the team until Ryan’s replacement, Pia Sundhage, asked her to come back the following season.
SHE CONTINUED WITH HER OUTSPOKEN WAYS
But the outspoken Solo didn’t stop there. In 2010, she landed herself in hot water after two separate Twitter rants. First, she accused Boston Breakers fans of offensive chanting and racism, then she questioned the integrity of referee Kari Seitz and the women’s pro soccer league after a loss to the Washington Freedom. The latter diatribe resulted in a $2,500 fine and a one-game suspension.
SHE SUFFERED A SEVERE SHOULDER INJURY
In 2010, Solo underwent reconstructive surgery to repair a severely injured shoulder damaged from years of soccer. Her injury was so extreme that Solo had no cartilage left in her shoulder joint, and the biceps tendon has completely detached from the bone. So, she had a procedure where 11 different anchors were put in place to stabilize the joint.
For a lesser athlete, such an injury could have been career-ending, but not for Solo. She rebounded after a period of intense physical therapy and won the Golden Glove award in 2011.
SHE ALMOST DIDN’T BECOME A GOALIE
When she started her amateur career in soccer, Solo was initially a forward. In fact, she was a two-time Parade All American while playing at Richland High School and scored 109 career goals while leading her team to three straight league titles.
When she attended college, her coach, Lesle Gallimore, saw something in Solo and challenged her to become a goalkeeper. “Hope was able to stop shots that most kids her age weren’t,” she said. “But it was also how she used her feet. The way she moved. She was one of the better athletes I’d ever seen.”
Solo resisted, however, preferring to play as a striker. “On a flight with the team, someone was like, ‘Oh, who’s the goalkeeper?’” she said. “I literally put my head down. I hated it. Miserable. I begged to play on the field.”
Still, Solo persevered in the position and eventually became one of the best goalkeepers in the world in a few scant years.
In recent years, Solo’s popularity has increased by leaps and bounds. After the 2011 World Cup, for example, her Twitter followers increased by almost 250,000 in a little more than a week. Then, she and teammates Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan signed endorsement deals with Bank of America. Later, Solo formed a sponsorship with Nike and inked a multi-year deal with Gatorade worth a reported low six figures each year.
According to Solo’s agent, Richard Motzkin, the athlete is well on her way to becoming a household name. “She has an opportunity to become well-known not just in the soccer scene, but in the public mainstream as well,” he said.