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16 Mar 2007
Olympic News

Mia Hamm: High Heels and Football

Triple Olympic medallist, World Player of the Year 2001 and 2002, and scorer of the most goals in international matches, Mia Hamm was one of the most eminent female footballers of the 1990s. Tomorrow she celebrates her 35th birthday. Let’s look back at her brilliant career in women’s football.

Goal after goal
At only 15, Mariel Margaret Hamm, better known as Mia, made it onto America’s national football team. At 19, she won the women’s World Cup along with her team. In the final of the first Olympic women’s football tournament in Atlanta in 1996, she became Olympic champion, her team finishing ahead of China. Four years later, at the Olympic Games in Sydney, she scored the only goal in the semi-final against Brazil and thus qualified the USA for the final. To crown it all, at the next Games in Athens in 2004, Mia Hamm and her team took the gold medal against Brazil by two goals to one after extra time. The flag-bearer of the US delegation at the Closing Ceremony in Athens, Mia then went on an international sports community farewell tour: quite a symbol!

Female footballer and proud of it
While modern men’s football has existed since 1863 and was among the first team sports on the programme of the Olympic Games, the same cannot be said of women’s football. Although women played football from the end of the 19th century in England, we had to wait until the end of the First World War to see the appearance of the first competition: the French women's football championship. In 1969 the first European Cup was organised and, in 1970, so was the first World Cup, both competitions which remained “unofficial”.
It was in 1996, at the Atlanta Games, that women’s football made its first Olympic appearance. Unlike men’s football, no age restriction is applied to the tournament. The final attracted 76,000 spectators - a record for a women’s sporting event.
In 2003, a world ranking was set up. Germany is at the top for the fourth consecutive year, ahead of the USA and Norway.
Since 2005, the Americans and the Germans have been the favourites. They will be the ones to watch at the next Olympic Games in Beijing – at which the number of women’s football teams will have increased from 8 to 12, in only three Olympiads.
With a record number of matches being played, teams in the ranking and 22 million women and girls practising the sport, women’s football has some fine times ahead of it.

Mistress of the Game
More than 15 years devoted to football, even though women’s football was not yet on the Games programme, three Olympic medals from three consecutive editions of the Games, and more than 150 goals in 275 matches make Mia Hamm an example of tenacity, courage and success for all women ready to go off the beaten track.

Coaches, administrators, journalists and jury members were not mistaken in inducting Mia Hamm to the “US Soccer Hall of Fame”.

For its part, the IOC is also working on improving the participation of women in sports activities and the Olympic Games. For example, since 1991, all new sports wishing to join the Olympic programme must contain women’s events.
  Learn more on the promotion of women in sport
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