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This summer’s games in London will be the third Olympics for Hope Solo. But, once again, it will be an entirely new experience.

Hope Solo met with youngsters on Friday at the Laurelhurst Community Center in Seattle. View gallery below. (Joshua Trujillo/

“I’m looking forward to the unknown,” Solo told Friday. “And I say that because every major tournament, for me, has brought something new and unexpected, and something I could never have prepared for.”

The U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team goalkeeper has been run through the gamut in the past few years. Not long after she left the University of Washington, where she was a star goalkeeper, Solo scored a trip to the 2004 Athens games as an alternate on the gold-medal team. By the next year, she was the U.S. national team’s favored starter. But in 2007, after a World Cup semifinal loss to Brazil, she publicly criticized her coach for benching her during the 4-0 blowout. She was kicked off the team.

She rejoined the team in 2008 in time for the Beijing Olympics, and helped lead the team to another gold medal — beating Brazil, interestingly, in the final match. Then there was last year, when the U.S. women’s team made a dramatic run in the World Cup. Playing through a shoulder injury, Solo was the star as the U.S. team powered into the final. They lost to Japan on penalty kicks — but, Solo said Friday, the national attention here in the U.S. helped build the game.

“All the stories that have been told after major tournaments, I never saw coming,” Solo said. “And I think it’s amazing. That’s what life is about.”

The Richland, Wash., native attained true celebrity status last fall when she competed on “Dancing with the Stars.” Though she and her dancing partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, were knocked out during the semifinals, she was a fan favorite on the reality TV series — at least in Seattle.

Hope Solo Seattle Sounders women

Hope Solo signs autographs for young fans after the Seattle Sounders women's squad's season opener April 9 at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. (Joshua Trujillo/
View photo gallery

Posing nude for ESPN The Magazine‘s “body issue” also helped her — and women’s soccer — gain fame. Just a little bit. You may have noticed she’s also in several TV commercials, including one for Gatorade, and has been endorsing products such as Simple Skincare.

Meanwhile, Solo has been juggling stardom and soccer. This spring and summer, she still has been juggling, but she’s been juggling soccer and soccer. And, to a certain extent, her personal life. Training for the Olympics by playing on the Seattle Sounders women’s squad, and playing matches with the national team, has stretched her thin.

“It’s not easy to balance,” Solo said Friday. “Every time I come back to Seattle I very much am gracious for my down time. I’m very busy on the road with appearances, shoots and then of course training. So it’s been hard, but it’s a balance that I’m finally ready to do because I want to give back to the community in Seattle that’s helped uplift my career. I wouldn’t be on the U.S. women’s team without my time in Seattle.”

Now she is also ready for new experiences back home in Seattle.

On Friday, Solo was in town for a charity event at Children’s Hospital, where she met and talked to kids who were thrilled to meet one of their sports heroes. The event was part of the PopChips Game Changers program. After the hospital appearance, she visited with more children at the Laurelhurst Community Center down the street.

Hope Solo poses in the press room during the Cartoon Network Hall of Game AWard on Feb. 18 in Santa Monica, Calif. (David Livingston/Getty Images)

There, young girls and boys shrieked with excitement as Solo entered the room. Clearly, while she may be a celebrity to adults who see her as a great athlete and, yes, a sex symbol, she is more profoundly a role model for children who have their own dreams of success.

“I think when you’re in your early 20s, your mid 20s, you’re not as grateful for things in life. And I think, you know — I’m so grown up now,” Solo, 30, said with a sigh and a smile. “It’s finally time for me to build the game and the sport that I love in the city I love.”

“I love seeing the game grow,” Solo continued. “And it’s not that — the women’s game isn’t going to grow without having that fanbase, without having that passion for the game. So when I go to Seattle and I play, I see the passion in the youth, in young girls. And that’s the only thing that’s going to grow the game here in Seattle.

“I’m happy to see that. But in the same breadth, we can’t just build the game off of the youth alone. It’s gotta be middle-aged men, it’s gotta be older men — you gotta build a quality game. You can’t just go off of appearances and shoots and looks. It has to be respected, it has to be played hard, it has to have good athletes, and you have to play the game in a respected manner. And that’s what brings in new fans.”

For the next couple months, Solo’s focus will be on the 2012 Olympics. The U.S. team leaves for London on July 10 and their first game is July 25. They’ll be looking to avenge their loss at the 2011 World Cup.

But the Olympics are a different beast.

“Every tournament is very different than the one before. It doesn’t matter if it’s a World Cup or Olympics,” Solo said. “But, you know, in the Olympics you feel like you’re a part of a team that’s much bigger than your 18 players on the roster. It’s your country, it’s your country’s pride. You start being competitive with the amount of medals the American team has over other countries, whereas in the World Cup it’s all about what your players do on the field.

“So, it’s a different aspect, it’s a different field, it’s more ‘I’m proud to be an American’ than ‘I’m proud to be a soccer player.’”

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Hope Solo in Seattle

Hope Solo visits with kids June 22, 2012, at the Laurelhurst Community Center in Seattle.


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Hope Solo juggles soccer, dancing


Visit for more Seattle news. Contact Nick Eaton at or on Twitter as @njeaton.