GLASGOW, Scotland — Wearing black Wellington boots and her usual confident smile, Hope Solo walked off the soggy pitch at historic Hampden Park on Monday and offered a preview of her second Olympics — and her first autobiography.
“People think I’m an open book,” Solo said. “People know nothing about me. They will know more about me on Aug. 14.”
The goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s soccer team has always been so engaging, so candid and so opinionated that one wonders what more she has to say in “A Memoir of Hope.” She also knows a good marketing opportunity when she sees one, so the book is scheduled for release two days after the end of the London Olympics, when sales should be especially robust if she comes home with another gold medal.
She’s already become quite the Solo act during the buildup to the Americans’ first game Wednesday against France at Scotland’s national stadium. Two weeks ago, she received a warning from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency after a urine test revealed the banned substance Canrenone. She called the episode an “honest mistake” and said it resulted from a premenstrual medication prescribed by her doctor, but nevertheless it’s believed to be the first positive drug test in the history of the U.S. women’s soccer program.
Then she was one of several athletes quoted in an ESPN The Magazine story about commonplace sex in the athletes village during the Beijing Olympics, saying: “On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty.”
Of course, she also had that fourth-place finish last year on “Dancing With the Stars,” a grueling competition that set back her training for the Olympics. And no Solo story would be complete without mentioning the time she essentially got kicked off the U.S. team at the 2007 World Cup in China for criticizing the coach.
Solo, who turns 31 next week, said she’s ready to set the record straight about details of her life and career that have been distorted. She has compelling stories to tell about her homeless father and alcoholic mother, and her teaser line for the book is not comfortable reading: “My family doesn’t do happy endings. We do sad endings or frustrating endings or no endings at all. We are hardwired to expect the next interruption or disappearance or broken promise.”
With all that baggage, a little extra media glare headed into the world’s best sporting competition isn’t going to bother her.
“All my life, since the time I was little, has been a long distraction,” Solo said. “At least that is the way some people want to perceive it. But for me, it’s given me a lot of strength, it’s given me a lot of fortitude, a lot of challenges that have given me the opportunity to really cut out those outside distractions. … You fast forward to after the World Cup and we’re talking challenges like Hollywood and challenges like a dance show and all these can be perceived as distractions to certain athletes, but all my life I have been able to handle them and it only gives me that extra fight to keep pushing and prove everybody wrong so, trust me, I am OK with the challenge.”
Naturally, no one would care if Solo weren’t such an amazingly talented goalkeeper, generally regarded as the best in the world. She rebounded from the 2007 contretemps to play every minute of the Americans’ gold medal run at the Beijing Games four years ago, and she was again the anchor at last year’s World Cup, when the U.S. finished second to Japan after losing a penalty shootout in the championship game.
Yet Solo hasn’t truly been herself on the field in two years. She was recovering from shoulder surgery last year, and the rehab affected her footwork during the World Cup. Then came “Dancing With the Stars,” which proved to her that dancing shape isn’t the same as soccer shape. She’s finally healthy and fit once again, just in time for the Olympics.
“You’ll see a full-go Hope Solo, for sure,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “She’s in a good place right now. Many things happened right after the World Cup, but she’s back from the ‘Dancing With The Stars’ to dancing with the players.”
Solo couldn’t believe such a phrase could come from her coach — “She did not say that!” — but the goalkeeper agreed with the sentiment.
“I think you’re going to see me as well-rounded as I could be right about now,” Solo said.
Solo’s descriptions of sexual antics in the Olympic village might have left the impression that she has other accomplishments in mind during these games. She made it clear that’s not the case.
“That’s not why I’m here. It’s not to party. It’s not to have fun,” she said. “It’s to win a gold medal, and nothing can stop us from attempting to do so.”
Words her publisher will be glad to hear.