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As a youth, playing soccer on the fields of North San Diego County, Rachel Buehler had no idea that one day she’d be earning a living as one of the best defensive backs in the world. But then, that’s what dreams are for.
Now, the former Torrey Pines High School standout is touring the country as a member of the 2012 Olympic gold medal winners, U.S. Women’s National Soccer team.
That’s gold medal number two for Buehler, who has made a name for herself as one of the hardest working athletes in women’s soccer.
That’s always been evident as the five-foot-five defender continually runs down and wins headers from the world’s best strikers (and usually with at least a half a foot on her).
Before Olympic gold and World Cup silver, the former San Diego Surf Soccer Club player earned 17 U-21 caps and started for the USA in two FIFA youth world championships.
Not only is Buehler an athlete to be reckoned with, she’s usually the smartest person in the room. In 2008, the Del Mar native, graduated pre-med from Stanford University with a degree in Human Biology.
I guess the only time your parents would be proud of you for taking a break from med school, is when you are joining the ranks of the U.S National team.
After a recent match against Australia’s National team at The Home Depot Center, Buehler talked to me about the game she loves and how it has reshaped her life.
Question: I saw a lot of San Diego Surf Soccer Club t-shirts in the crowd today. How does it feel to be playing back home in Southern California?
Rachel Buehler: It’s always so great to play in Southern California. I just feel so much support from the Surf Club and really all the SoCal clubs and of course all my family down here.
It’s just a great soccer mecca and it’s just wonderful that we can play in front of all these fans.
Q: Has all this hit you yet – winning your second gold medal and playing to these crowds on the victory tour?
RB: Now that we’re back in the states, seeing how many of the fans are coming to our games and with all the emotion and how much they’re loving it – yeah, it’s starting to hit now.
When we were in London we didn’t realize how much it meant to everybody back home. And now we can feel it and share it with them. It’s really special.
Q: I saw you in practice marking Abby Wambach. How valuable is that for you to practice every day with one of the best forwards in the world.
RB: Its awesome. The thing about our forwards is that they’re all very different. We have Alex Morgan’s speed and Abby’s strength and presence in the air. And by marking all those incredible players on our own team, it just makes us that much better. I value that so much.
Q: You played at Torrey Pines High School and San Diego Surf Club. Tell me your most favorite memory of those days.
RB: Well, in high school, we won CIF my freshman year. We also won again my senior year, but I was injured and wasn’t able to be on the field.
But it was so cool to be a freshman and play in that game and to be part of that whole experience.
Playing for your high school is really fun. It’s the same kind of feeling that you get when you’re playing for your college. You’re part of something greater than yourself, which is really cool.
Q: When did you first realize that soccer was something you could do for a living?
RB: To be truthful, probably not until I graduated from college and it kind of happened. I thought I was going to med school straight out of college.
I loved soccer so much but I didn’t realize that it could be a career for me. And also the league wasn’t there at that point, so it was the National Team and that was it. Then it just sort of happened – so it’s been such a wonderful ride.
Q: Who did you look up to as a kid?
RB: Michelle Akers, Christine Lilly, of course Mia Hamm – all those greats.
Q: Where were you during the Women’s World Cup in 1999?
RB: We actually didn’t go to the game, but I was with my surf team. We had a barbeque before the game and watched it as a team. It was really fun to be a part of that.
Q: Now kids are looking up to you. What advice do you give young people who aspire to reach the type of success you have?
RB: I think most importantly, always remember what soccer is all about and that’s having fun. I think you can see this team having fun out there in practice and in games.
Because no matter what level you’re playing at, you always go back to the fact that the reason you play is because you enjoy it. And ultimately that’s what the game is about.