From getting “pumped up” listening to music by Jersey Shore’s DJ Pauly D to hanging with her boyfriend in her free time and indulging in retail therapy once in a while, New Jersey native Carli Lloyd seems just like the rest of us. Except for one small difference—she scored the game-winning goal in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medal games, becoming the only player—male or female—in the history of the Olympics to do so in two consecutive gold medal games.
The 30-year-old U.S. women’s national soccer team midfielder, who now plays for the Western New York Flash, may be nursing an injury, but when she spoke to us, she wasn’t letting it nix her motivation to improve on and off the field.
SHAPE: The season just opened, and you were sidelined due to a shoulder injury. What was it like for you seeing your teammates on the field without you?
Carli Lloyd (CL): It’s always hard to deal with injuries mentally, but I like to think about it as a new beginning. I can’t change what happened, so the focus needs to go toward healing and coming back stronger than before. When you can’t contribute to your team on the field, you can best contribute by being supportive of your teammates and getting yourself ready to play as soon as possible.
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SHAPE: How did you become interested in soccer? Did you always think you would play at the professional level?
CL: Like many kids, I was thrown into recreational soccer in my town, and from there I grew to love it. Everywhere I went I carried a soccer ball with me. I didn't think I could make it as a professional until my college years. In my senior year, I realized I had the potential to play pro and teamed up with my trainer, James Galanis of Universal Soccer Academy. He developed a plan for me to reach the next level and I stuck to it and kept working to achieve my goals.
SHAPE: What's your most memorable moment on the field?
CL: It would have to be my second goal against Japan in the 2012 Olympic gold medal game. It turned out to be the game-winner and winning that goal medal was for sure the most memorable moment of my career so far.
SHAPE: What was it like being in the Olympics?
CL: It’s an indescribable feeling. To be among the world’s greatest athletes and compete for Team USA while knowing that the entire world is watching is something that athletes dream about. To be able to experience that was truly special.
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SHAPE: Aside from the competition aspect, what makes the Olympic experience so memorable?
CL: It was a very unique experience being able to meet other athletes in the Olympic Village and hear and share stories of the sacrifices they made to get to there. I also really enjoyed taking in the experience of watching other events and touring the host cities and the village.
SHAPE: What keeps you motivated as an athlete?
CL: My secret has been that I have one of the best environments in the country at the Universal Soccer Academy, where I can always go to continuously improve my game. I am blessed that I’m in an ongoing program designed to keep me motivated and improving. No one can do it by themselves, so to have a great support system is really invaluable.
SHAPE: Do you have a message you would like to send out there for other female athletes?
CL: We are blessed with so many opportunities as female athletes due to Title IX, and it’s fantastic that young girls can aspire to reach their highest athletic goals and have female role models along the way. If you have a dream of becoming a professional athlete, it can be done. It will no doubt take hard work and sacrifice, and you surely will hit obstacles along the way, but if you want it bad enough, you can achieve it.
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SHAPE: What have you learned from your soccer career that you apply to other areas of your life that other people can take away from?
CL: Two important lessons I have learned is to never give up and always try to outwork people.
SHAPE: What do you enjoy doing when you're not playing soccer?
CL: I love shopping! It’s my release sometimes. I also enjoy watching movies and hanging with my boyfriend, Brian.
Follow Carli on Twitter @carlilloyd.