The date was July 10, 1999. The event was the final of the Women's World Cup between the United States and China. The audience of 40 million made it the most-watched soccer game ever on U.S. network television. Brandi Chastain scored the game winner on the fifth penalty kick. More people saw her bra that day than one of Madonna's at a concert. President Bill Clinton, who attended the game in Pasadena, noted at the time, "This will have a bigger impact than people will ever realize."
Watching at her home in Olivette was a 14-year-old girl named Becky Sauerbrunn. Becky was on the floor; head in her hands some of the time, and completely enthralled most of the time. It was at that moment—that game—that she knew what she wanted to do with her life.
The Ladue H.S. alum has done it: Sauerbrunn became the first three-time All-American in the history of the Univeristy of Virginia. She also was named the National Scholar Athlete of the Year. Sauerbrunn was drafted in 2005, and has played professionally in Boston, Richmond and Washington, D.C. Her greatest achievements are starting for the U.S. in the semifinal win over France in the World Cup in 2011, and playing a big role for Team USA in winning the gold medal at the London Olympics last summer. It's safe to say, Sauerbrunn is one of the best soccer players in America.
Sauerbrunn trains in Denver with the national team. Signature Sports Medicine in St. Louis recently brought her back home to talk to young soccer players in the area. That's where we caught up with her.
How did you develop your skills?
I had two brothers, so I played against boys at a really young age. They are stronger and faster. For me to be able to hold my own, I had to be smarter.
Most people you have ever played in front of?
Wembley Stadium for the gold medal game this summer—we had 71,000 on hand!
What will you do when you can no longer play soccer?
I’d like to go into training and injury prevention. I want to make a difference.
Favorite place to eat when you come back to town?
Mom's kitchen, and anything on The Hill.
Where do you keep the gold medal?
My apartment in Denver.
Are guys intimidated talking to you?
No. I don't really give the intimidating vibe.
What have you learned from your journey?
You have to be resilient. Be realistic about your goals. Be confident but not over-confident. You have to love the game, because sometimes the game treats you badly. Just stay with it, because at some point, the soccer gods will look kindly on you.
Some quick thoughts:
1.St. Louis lost a treasure. We probably never fully appreciated Rick Majerus. But the man who used to diagram plays on his shower door had one of the greatest basketball minds the world has ever known.
2. If you are looking for a holiday idea, try the Stan Musial bat with the seven batting title years and averages stamped on the barrels (stan-the-man.com).
3. I just read 65-year-old Stan Kroenke can bench press 225 pounds 12 times. I need to get to the gym more.
4. My new favorite interview is Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith. He has learned that being colorful, funny and insightful will not hinder your program. The media can be your ally.
5. If you don't believe there is a god of justice, then explain why people who call in sick when they are not really sick, get sick soon afterward.