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Hope Solo is no stranger to adversity. The U.S. women’s soccer team goalkeeper may be one of the most famous athletes at this summer’s London Olympics, but she fought and struggled to get where she is today.

Hope Solo

Hope Solo. (Getty Images)

Born in Richland, Wash., she was conceived during one of her mother’s conjugal visits to Walla Walla State Penitentiary while her father was serving a prison sentence for embezzlement. To this day, Hope doesn’t know everything about her dad, Jeffrey John Solo, whom despite his faults Hope obviously loved dearly. She didn’t even know his real name was Jeffrey until years later, when she saw it in a police report; she knew him as Gerry, though he also went by the nicknames Johnny and Tony.

“When my dad was around, we would share tubs of Neapolitan ice cream — although he ate all the strawberry — while we watched TV,” Solo wrote in her upcoming autobiography, “Solo: A Memoir of Hope,” which is set for release on Aug. 14. “We’d go to 7-Eleven and get white powdered donuts and Slurpees, mixing up all the different flavors into a sweet, soothing concoction. But as I got older, I started to see the cracks in my idyllic life. One spring, when I was a Brownie, the Girl Scout Cookie money went missing. Sometimes my father went missing. One morning, my mother went out to get her car and it was gone: repossessed for lack of payment.”

Hope’s mother, Judy Lynn Solo, was Jeffrey’s second wife. In fact, she was his second wife named Judy Lynn — he had two children, Hope’s half-siblings, with a woman from Kirkland also named Judy Lynn. Jeffrey had “Judy Lynn Solo” ambiguously tattooed on one forearm; he had a mermaid on the other. The Kirkland family would visit Richland every summer, Hope wrote in her autobiography. Sometimes they would all go camping. Despite his complicated family life and his ongoing trouble with the law, Jeffrey coached and mentored Hope and her older brother, Marcus, until her parents divorced when she was 5 or 6.

One day when Hope was 7, her father picked up her and Marcus to go to a Little League baseball game in Yakima. But they ended up driving over the Cascades to Seattle, where they stayed for several days at a hotel with a pool, according to an excerpt of the autobiography published on Hope said it was like a vacation at first, but she soon knew something wasn’t right. Police found them at a downtown bank and arrested Jeffrey for alleged kidnapping.

Hope was angry at her mother for calling the authorities. “As we drove back to Richland, I boiled with anger,” Hope said in her autobiography, which was co-written by Ann Killion. “I was mad at my mother for taking us home. Mad at my father for lying to us. Mad at myself for doing something wrong. I was mad at the world.”

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Hope Solo through the years

She didn’t see her dad again for more than 10 years. And when she did, it was by coincidence. She spotted him while walking through a Seattle park; she approached him and reconnected, according to a recent profile of Hope Solo in Newsweek magazine. Jeffrey had been living on the streets, had plenty of run-ins with the law — and may have been one reason Hope Solo decided to attend the University of Washington for college.

As Hope developed into a star soccer player at UW, Jeffrey attended every one of her soccer games. But he was living in a tent in the woods, according to Newsweek. She’d often bring him macaroni and cheese to eat.

Things took a turn for the strange in 2001, when police fingered Jeffrey as a “person of interest” in the murder of Bellevue realtor Mike Emert. Jeffrey’s name was eventually cleared when Seattle police turned their focus to an ex-cop, Gary Krueger, who had served time for bank robbery and was suspected in the murder before he drowned in Lake Washington in 2010.

Hope Solo in 2000

Hope Solo in 2000, when she was goalkeeper for the UW Huskies. (Daniel Sheehan/Seattle P-I file)

By then Hope had been named to the U.S. national team. And in 2007, not long before her first World Cup — one that would soon prove controversial for the young star — Hope arranged to fly her dad out to New York. But before he could make the trip, he died of a heart attack, according to the Salt Lake City Desert News. She was devastated.

“It’s a complicated thing, knowing how much pain my father caused in my life and the lives of others whom I love, yet still holding love for him in my heart,” Hope wrote in her autobiography. “No matter what he did, he was my father. He helped create the person I am. He showered me with love; he just didn’t know how to be a husband or a father or a responsible member of society. Yes, he was a con man. Yes, he was a ladies man. Yes, he was unreliable at best and a criminal at worst.

“If I hadn’t made peace with him later in my life, I’d still be bitter and angry.”

This is just one of the subjects Hope Solo covers in her upcoming autobiography. Presumably, she also touches on the other hardships, controversies and victories that have made her arguably the nation’s most famous women’s soccer player.

Such as that 2007 World Cup, when her coach shockingly benched her for a decisive game then kicked her off the team after she complained to the press. The coach, Greg Ryan, was eventually sacked and Hope was invited back to the team for the 2008 season. But, she told Newsweek, she was shunned by the rest of the team for a good time afterward.

Hope was thrust into the national spotlight during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, when she became the face of the U.S. women’s soccer team that won the gold medal. It was amazing that she could even play, having undergone shoulder surgery nine months earlier.

Hope Solo 2007 World Cup

The 2007 World Cup was a controversial one for Hope Solo, right. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

She made headlines again this month, when Hope admitted to ESPN The Magazine that she took a celebrity to bed after celebrating the 2008 gold medal, and that the team showed up drunk to their “Today” show interview the next morning.

The stories kept coming for Hope Solo, who will turn 31 on July 30. Last year, she appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and made a deep run on the reality TV show. Controversy found her again when her dancing partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, got frustrated and pushed her during a videotaped rehearsal. She initially let the incident slide, but spoke up after viewers balked.

“The public was like, how can you not stand up for women, for abused women?” Solo told Newsweek. “And I was like, whoa whoa. I will always stand up for them.”

Her fame boiled over when she posed nude for ESPN The Magazine’s 2011 “Body Issue.” And local fans were overjoyed when she joined the Seattle Sounders women’s squad earlier this year to train for the Olympics.

But controversy didn’t avoid Solo for long. Two weeks ago, she got a warning from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency after she tested positive for a banned substance. Solo likely would have been disqualified from the Olympics if the agency hadn’t determined that she was unaware the substance, Canrenone, was in her menstrual-cramp medication.

“I took a medication prescribed by my personal doctor for pre-menstrual purposes that I did not know contained a diuretic,” Solo said in a statement. “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.”

Now, as the London Olympics are set to open Friday, Solo is once again in the national spotlight — heck, she is on the cover of this week’s Newsweek. But having flown to the U.K. already, she is now trying to focus solely on soccer.

Hope Solo in Seattle

Hope Solo visited kids at the Laurelhurst Community Center in Seattle on June 22, 2012. (Joshua Trujillo/

Even though, as she said this month, Olympic Village is always a hotbed for partying and sex among athletes.

“That’s not why I’m here. It’s not to party. It’s not to have fun,” she told The Associated Press on Monday in Scotland. “It’s to win a gold medal, and nothing can stop us from attempting to do so.”

While Solo 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. That side of her was never on better display than a month ago, when she attended a charity event at Seattle’s Children Hospital and, afterward, visited with more children at the Laurelhurst Community Center down the street.

There, young girls and boys shrieked with excitement as Solo entered the room. Speaking with after the June 22 appearance, Solo said she is planning to do more charity work in Seattle, to help bring more attention to women’s soccer and women’s sports in general.

“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 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,” she continued. “The women’s game isn’t going to grow without having that fan base, 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 breath, 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.”

Hope Solo 2012 Olympics training

Hope Solo is now in the U.K training for the London Olympics. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

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