Slideshow: Abby Wambach named 2011 Female Athlete of the Year

Former Washington Freedom star Abby Wambach has won the 2011 Female Athlete of the Year, selected by members of The Associated Press. She is the first individual soccer player - man or woman - to win the annual sports awards, which began in 1931. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2011 - Former Washington Freedom star Abby Wambach has won the 2011 Female Athlete of the Year, selected by members of The Associated Press. She is the first individual soccer player - man or woman - to win the annual sports awards, which began in 1931. 

Wambach was chosen for her performance in the Women’s World Cup this summer, notably the dramatic goal against Brazil in the quarterfinal game when she headed home Megan Rapinoe’s cross from the left flank late in extra-time. The goal tied the game 2-2 and the Americans went on to win the penalty shootout. Wambach’s goal went viral and many Americans jumped on the soccer bandwagon rooting for the U.S.A. team. Her last minute goal was awarded ESPN’s 2011 ESPY Award for Best Play of the Year. 

Wambach, who spent a number of years living and playing in the Washington D.C. region between 2002 and 2010, received 65 of the 214 votes cast in the Associated Press poll, while teammate Hope Solo (38) was a distant second.

“We, as a team, did something that no team since Mia Hamm was able to do,” Wambach told the Associated Press. “Even the team that won the (Olympic) gold medal in 2008 wasn’t able to inspire and get people excited about women’s soccer. It goes to show you the impact drama can bring.”

Wambach notched four goals at the World Cup in Germany giving her 13 in three World Cup appearances beating out the record held by American Michelle Akers by one.

The Rochester. N.Y.,  native, is third on the all-time World Cup scoring chart behind Brazil’s Marta and Germany’s Birgit Prinz. The 31-year-old ranks third on the U.S. career scoring list with 125 goals, trailing only Mia Hamm (158) and Kristine Lilly (130). 

“When she’s on top of her game,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage told the AP, “she’s one of the best in the world.”

Wambach scored a in the semifinal win over France and also scored a goal in the final against Japan which the U.S. team lost on a penalty shootout after giving up a 2-1 lead.

The U.S. team is now preparing for next’s months regional qualifying tournament for the London Olympics next summer.

 


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John Haydon

John Haydon has covered soccer for The Washington Times for two decades. He has reported on international soccer events in Germany, South Korea and Spain. John hails from Birmingham, England and has lived in the Washington D.C. region for over twenty years.  

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