As she prepares for her fourth and final Women's World Cup, Mia Hamm is happy, healthy and confident again, not an aging superstar hanging on for another year or so. \nHer world-record tally of 142 international goals is certain to grow by the time she retires from the international scene after next year's Olympics. \n"I know I can't do this forever, and I'm going to give it one more go," said the 31-year-old Hamm, whose quest for another World Cup title begins tomorrow when the US hosts Sweden. \nFor several years, Hamm looked more likely to fade away rather than go out on top. The goals weren't coming the way they used to. She was no longer the most dangerous scorer in the world. She wasn't even close. \nShe had knee surgery. She divorced her military husband of six years. Her notoriously fragile confidence was splintering, to the point that she felt the need to hug US coach April Heinrichs and say "Thanks for not giving up on me" after scoring a goal at an Olympic warmup game in 2000. \nSo, asked whether the main reason for her slump was physical, personal or psychological, Hamm gave the only response she could: All of the above. \n"They all play on one another," Hamm said. "But I didn't want to say, `Well, this is the reason.' Not that you shouldn't try to find the reason, but if I said it's because I'm not happy, or because I'm injured, then when you become healthy again and they still don't happen, you're totally freaked out. You're like, `Should I just quit?' \n"So what I tried to do is focus on the things I could control." \nThat meant rehabbing her knee as hard as she could, relying on "wonderful friends and an amazing family" as her marriage ended and a new romance began with Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, and improving her playmaking and defense skills to compensate for her lack of scoring. \n"It's easy to finger-point. It's easy to blame everyone else," she said. "But I don't think I ever did that. I tried to reassess what I was doing, what I wasn't doing. Then, at times, you try to get in your own way, and it makes it even worse." \nThe comeback began 15 months ago, when Hamm needed just seven minutes to score for the WUSA's Washington Freedom in her first game after the surgery. This season, she was the Hamm of old -- but more so -- with a well-rounded game that was the perfect complement for Freedom youngster Abby Wambach. Together, they tied for the WUSA's scoring lead and won the league title. \n"Having Abby up there made it a lot easier," Hamm said. "It took a lot of the pressure off me." \nHer personal life has rebounded. She plans to marry Garciaparra later this year. The self-doubting has faded. Her 20-yard free-kick against San Diego in July was one of the most powerful, confident goals of the year -- no tender hugs needed after that one. \n"She has become the complete player, in every aspect of the game, that she's always wanted to be," Heinrichs said. \nThat made this week's demise of the WUSA even tougher for Hamm to swallow. The league was the perfect setting for her to refine her game and regain her health and confidence; it would have been much more difficult to work her way back through the national team's intermittent camps and games. \n"We're sad. We're all sad," Hamm said. "This isn't like a bus that you missed. This is something that we've all invested so much time and energy." \nCasual sports fans might be surprised to learn that Hamm was ever in a slump. After all, she remained by far the most popular female player in the world, even winning back-to-back FIFA Player of the Year awards when other players were clearly more deserving. She remains the queen of endorsements, despite a shy public demeanor sometimes mistaken for frosty aloofness. \nBut Hamm is congenial and full of fun away from the formal spotlight. She took a boom mike from a TV crew at the end of last weekend's practice and laughingly stuck it in teammates' faces, urging them to perform their best karaoke. \nThe question of image and leadership reveals another of Hamm's inner battles. Teammates Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain are born leaders, naturals in front of a camera. People want the same from Hamm. \n"To be honest with you, there were times I'd beat myself up for not having the qualities of Julie, Kristine [Lilly] or Carla [Overbeck]," Hamm said. "And I can't be that. I will never be able to be that. That's what I finally realized." \nSo Hamm leads in more subtle ways. She was the one who went up to every teammate on the medal podium, saying "Hold your head high -- and be proud" after the overtime loss in the gold-medal game at the Sydney Olympics. \n"She's easily misunderstood," Heinrichs said. "She has this serious look on her face. Everybody in our society wants the female sports figure to be glamorous, gorgeous and smiling every minute. Let's value the qualities Mia has: Intelligent, articulate and humble. Let's write that story."
An 82-year-old man on Saturday set off from Kaohsiung’s Sizihwan Bay (西子灣) to circumnavigate Taiwan in a sailboat in 29 days. Chinese Taipei Sailing Association vice president Chan Cheng-feng said the trip had been a dream of his for the past 40 years. Chan, who also heads the Kaohsiung Municipal Athletics Federation’s sailing committee, has been working to promote the sport in Taiwan since leaving the Marine Corps in 1976. The biggest challenge has been ensuring that people learn how to deal with problems at sea and know how to avoid danger, Chan said. The octogenarian said it is exciting to “still be having
Tuesday night was another home run, another pitching win, another spot in the history books — just another night for Shohei Ohtani. The two-way sensation from Japan withstood another injury scare and pitched six scoreless innings to go with his team-leading 25th home run, reaching yet another monumental milestone as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1. Ohtani joined Babe Ruth (1918) as the only players in major league history to have at least 10 home runs and 10 wins in the same season. The Angels said that two players from the Negro Leagues also did it: Bullet Rogan of the
A tearful Naomi Osaka on Tuesday retired injured and US Open champion Emma Raducanu fell at the first hurdle as the top women’s players continued their preparations for Flushing Meadows at the Canadian Open in Toronto. News of the pending retirement of Serena Williams overshadowed proceedings at the tune-up for the year’s final Grand Slam, but there were no shortage of first-round upsets for fans to enjoy, including one by local Bianca Andreescu. Twice US Open champion Osaka, in only her second tournament back from an Achilles injury, battled on gamely before retiring while trailing Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (7/4), 3-0. “I felt my
As David Popovici has accelerated past his older rivals in the pool this summer, it seemed inevitable that the skinny 17-year-old would threaten world records. The only surprise when he broke the 100m freestyle mark in Rome on Saturday was that he got so quick so fast. On Friday, the Romanian had become only the fourth man in history to swim under 47 seconds as he set a European record to win his semi-final at the European Aquatics Championships in Rome. That was more than half a second faster than his gold-medal time at the FINA World Championships in June. On Saturday,