In the last 20 months
The worst spell of Solo's life, however, turned positive this past summer. Back between the pipes for the national team, she made save after save in a stirring 1-0 victory over Brazil that gave the Americans the Olympic gold medal. Her stop of a point-blank Marta shot in the 72nd minute was the play of the tournament, and it was the kind of save that previous U.S. coach
"It's like a storybook ending," Solo said after the Olympics. "It's something you see in Hollywood or in fairy tales. My life doesn't play out like that all the time."
Happy endings alone don't merit the honor of Sportsperson of the Year. But behind Solo's story of redemption is a more layered one about women's sports in general. As my colleague
The answers Solo provided with her star turn in Beijing have moved the women's game to a better place. No longer will the national team's success be anchored to the notion of camaraderie, as if friendship matters more than foot skills. After the 1999 World Cup and throughout the Golden Girls era of
There is little doubt that Solo's punishment did not fit the crime; some teammates admit that now. But the way she handled her penance, by working on her game and not worrying about the love of her teammates, deserves respect. There are conflicting personalities in every locker room, and not getting along off the field shouldn't preclude a team from winning on it, especially not when the prize is a World Cup title or a gold medal.
Before the Olympics, Solo said: "We don't have to be friends to respect what somebody does on the field. I truly hope women's sports can get to that point."
The women's national soccer team has, and for that we can thank Hope Solo, a deserving Sportsperson of the Year.