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Kristi Heim: The World in China

Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim explores a changing China on the world stage.

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August 21, 2008 11:50 AM

A personal quest for Hope

Posted by Kristi Heim

Hope Solo, that is. I just watched the U.S. women's soccer team beat Brazil 1-0 for the gold medal, a game that must have felt like justice after last year. Several big saves by Solo were key to the win. In a sense, she had a chance to prove what she famously said after last year's World Cup defeat: that she could have stopped the Brazilians' four goals if she'd been on the field and not on the bench. This time she was.

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"I'm on cloud nine," she said. "I was floating out there. It didn't seem real. I didn't shed a tear. I didn't cry. I can't really believe it. I put my phone by the goal post. As soon as that last whistle blew, I called my brother. It was amazing. He was in tears. He was here for the World Cup, for my dad... I just was screaming in the phone. I was running around the field screaming."

Solo said she was "going through hell" for the last 10 months following the death of her father, and then being sidelined and getting the cold shoulder from teammates after her World Cup remark. In the end, she and the defense shut down the world's best player, Brazilian forward Marta. Later on the medal stand, Solo kissed her gold medal.

"Many people dream of this all their lives," she said. "It's significant for my family, for my friends, to how far I've come over many years. I think this medal it, I don't know... it represents my family."

Indeed, the U.S. team must have felt like the underdog in Beijing. The mostly Chinese crowd booed when the U.S. took corner kicks and screamed for "Ba-xi," the name for Brazil in Mandarin. It was a rainy night, so the hosts just happened to have bright yellow rain tarps to hand out, making the stadium awash in Brazil's color. Not many people were counting on them to win.

"I think we thrive when there's so much doubt," Solo said. "When we're the underdogs. We heard betting for the Japan game was four to one against us. We know a lot of people doubted us against Brazil... I think our defense really won this game."

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As for whether Solo felt vindicated, she said: "I don't even think about whatever I said last year. I said everything under emotions. I'm just enjoying the moment right now. I feel great. I just won a damn gold medal."

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