AROUND NJ

London Bound Olympian Looks Back on Extraordinary Soccer Career

By Will Jones
NJ Today

Christie Rampone greets her young fans at a pep rally for the national team captain at Jersey Shore University Medical Center this week. Photo courtesy of Robert Ward/Asbury Park Press.

U.S. women’s soccer captain, Christie Rampone, is preparing to make her final bow at this summer’s Olympic Games in London. In a career spanning three previous Olympiads, the Manasquan native reflects upon a competition which has always carried a special resonance.

“Growing up in America, the Olympic Dream is what you look up to — you always aspire to be on top of that podium,” she said. “As you enter the Olympic village, you really feel the power and embrace that whole Olympic experience.”

Those podium aspirations were fulfilled in Beijing four summers ago, when the U.S. team defeated tournament favorite Brazil in the final. Rampone points to that gold medal as the defining moment in her Olympic career.

“That feeling when you win and no one was expecting it and the way in which the team persevered made it all the more rewarding and special.”

The Beijing Olympics offered Rampone her first experience of captaincy on an international level. And despite the disappointment of losing to Japan in the 2011 World Cup final, the U.S. team has prospered under her leadership as it continues to maintain its position at the top of FIFA’s world rankings. Rampone now travels to London as not only the captain of her nation’s soccer team, but as a veteran and role model within the U.S. Olympics team as a whole.

“I definitely embrace the leadership responsibilities,” she said. “It’s helped me grow as a player and has given me more confidence on the field. Being in that role for the national team is an honor and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

As the New Jersey native prepares for London, she looks back on an international career that has spanned fifteen years and was launched during her time as a senior at Monmouth University when talent scouts faxed the school to invite her to attend a national team training camp. And according to Rampone, her success on the world stage can be greatly credited to her time growing up in the Garden State.

“You grow up with thick skin as a Jersey girl. It’s highly competitive. From a young age people are honest with you and they let you know how you’re playing. I don’t feel as if anything is truly sugar coated in Jersey so it allows you to become a better player.”

Rampone’s international achievements have been recognized by the academic institution she once flourished at as an athlete. Monmouth University inducted her into its Hall of Fame in 2007 and honored her achievements in Beijing by declaring October 5, 2008 as “Christie Rampone Day.”

“It’s great to be recognized as it’s where I come from and it’s where the foundations were built for me to become an elite athlete,” she said. “Being the shy girl, they really helped me get out of my shell. So for them to continue to support me definitely means a lot as they’re the reason I am where I am today.”

New Jersey will be watching with pride when Rampone’s Olympic campaign commences on July 25. The U.S. team takes on France in its opening group game, before playing Colombia and North Korea. The tournament marks the captain’s fourth Olympic Games, a feat never achieved by any other U.S. player.