Washington-born Hope Solo is one of the biggest names in women’s soccer and a veteran Olympian. The prolific goalkeeper was selected as alternate for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team at the age of 23, according to her web site, but it was her defensive showdown at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics that won the team the Gold Medal against top-dog Brazil. Now, with several awards already under her belt including WPS Goalkeeper of the Year (2008), a Golden Glove (2011) and a Bronze Ball (2011), Hope has become the 27th American woman — and second goalkeeper — to reach 100 caps. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Hope began playing soccer at the tender age of five, coached by her father and Vietnam war veteran, Jeffrey Solo. Her fiery attitude and determination may very well come from him — a man she describes as “a tough Italian guy who was raised in a boys’ home in the Bronx,” she told USA Today. This inherited fortitude came in handy: Hope, originally a forward, claims she is an accidental goalkeeper, having started off as a replacement for an injured mate and then pursuing the role out of sheer competitiveness.

Hope Solo initially made a name for herself at the University of Washington, becoming their all-time leader on shutouts, saves and goals-against-average, and eventually joined the US national team in 2000. Unfortunately, Jeffrey – who became homeless after divorcing Hope’s mother, although he remained close with his daughter – never had the chance to see her play on the national team; he died of a heart attack eight days before he could attend his first US women’s match.

Hope went on to play for the WUSA’s Philadelphia Charge, the Swedish Kipparbergs/Goteborg FC, the French Olympique Lyonnais, St. Louis Athletica, Atlanta Beat, magicJack, and is currently signed with the Seattle Sounders Women. Despite a severe shoulder injury and surgery in 2010, the four-time All-Pac-10 athlete and three-time NSCAA All-American defended the U.S. in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, earning them second place in the championship. Today, she is widely acknowledged to be the best goalkeeper in women’s soccer, surpassing longtime favorite Briana Scurry.

But Hope has also made news off the field. She’s known for her outspoken criticism of then-coach Greg Ryan (whom she accused of favoring keeper Scurry in a semifinal match against Brazil), and her controversial Twitter rants against referees and racist Boston fans. In 2011, she signed on for the thirteenth season of Dancing With The Stars after dancing professional Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s very public request on ESPN’s SportsCenter. That same year, she graced the cover of Sports Illustrated (the first athlete to do so since Serena Williams in 2010) and appeared stark naked in ESPN’s "Body Issue." With almost 300,000 Twitter followers to date, and several endorsement deals with bigwigs Bank of America and Gatorade, the record-winning athlete has skyrocketed into the mainstream limelight in barely a year.

Her teammates, however, still know her for her “nice feet,” referring both to her quick footwork — a rare advantage for a goalie, dating to her days as a forward — and her self-professed obsession with pedicures and shoes.

At the peak of her professional and public career, Hope Solo is one of the U.S. Olympic Team’s most promising all-stars and a figure to watch at this year’s London Summer Olympics.

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