Sports • Mia Hamm

The world's greatest female soccer player is focused on her goals.

It’s 80 degrees, breezeless, and humid as dusk settles over Hershey, Pennsylvania—the Sweetest Place on Earth. I’m sitting in the top tier of the stadium behind a ponytailed pack of flag-waving zealots. But unlike any soccer hooligans you’ve heard of, these teenage girls choose Slurpees and Skittles over beer and chips. Even their red, white, and blue face paint, I’m told, is sugar based. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is en route to an 11-0 thrashing of Trinidad and Tobago, and each time Mia Hamm touches the ball, a shrill chant of “Mia! Mia! Mia!” erupts. Just before halftime she buries a shot into the roof of the net, sending the crowd into earsplitting paroxysms of joy. Hamm throws her head back with discernible relief and traces a cross on her chest. The whole world smells like milk chocolate.When asked about the goal after the match, the 28-year-old Hamm confesses, “It’s been a long time.” Since her breakout year in 1998, when she led the U.S. team with twenty goals and twenty assists, Hamm’s production has slipped. Despite helping the U.S. capture the 1999 Women’s World Cup, Mia’s shots have found the goalie’s gloves as often as the net. Defenses now regularly double- and triple-team her, and her squad also features a more balanced attack, with Tiffeny Milbrett, Kristine Lilly, and Cindy Parlow shouldering added responsibility. But when the U.S. women set out to defend their gold medal this month during the summer Olympics in Sydney, Hamm will have to be at the top of her game. To reach the medal rounds, the U.S. must beat archrivals Norway and China, two teams that have already defeated the U.S. women this year. As if that pressure weren’t enough, more than another gold medal is riding on Hamm’s play. The Women’s United Soccer Association ( WUSA) is slated to kick off next year. The professional league hopes to do for women’s soccer what the WNBA did for women’s basketball. Olympic success will be vital to its upcoming launch. Whether she nets the decisive goal or not, Hamm will leave her mark on Sydney. Her best gift may be her competitive fire. If scoring eludes her, she intensifies other areas of her game, doling out assists, hounding loose balls, and stretching the defense with her long, slashing runs. She is without a doubt the most dominating female sports figure to emerge from Texas since Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias sauntered into the 1932 Olympics to collect two gold medals in track and field. It has not gone unnoticed that Zaharias became a founding member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, claiming every title available to women at the time and helping to inspire a generation of female athletes along the way. Hamm is in a similar situation, given that her talent will provide the star power in the new league. She too owns nearly every record her sport has to offer. She

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...