Mia Hamm (born Mariel Margaret Hamm on March 17, 1972 in Selma, Alabama) is an American soccer player. Hamm has been able to gain the respect of soccer experts and build a large fan base in the United States, where she played for seventeen years as a member of the United States women's national soccer team. She is widely considered to be one of the best women to have ever played the game, having been named FIFA World Player of the Year twice (2001 and 2002), although she was recently surpassed by German Birgit Prinz, who won in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Hamm, one of four daughters of an Air Force pilot, was born in Alabama and lived in several different places before her family settled in Wichita Falls, Texas. Her parents later adopted two boys; the older Garrett became her main source of encouragement in her athletic interests. At age twelve, she played on her junior high school's football team but eventually settled on soccer. She later moved to northern Virginia to finish her high school career at Lake Braddock Secondary School, living with relatives until the rest of her family joined her a year later. The youngest player ever to play for the national team at age fifteen, Mia later attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was nicknamed "Jordan" by her peers, in reference to another UNC athlete Michael Jordan. She helped to take the Tar Heels to four NCAA women's championships in five years (she sat out the 1991 season to concentrate on the Women's World Championship in China). She was an All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year for the last three years of her college tenure.
In 1991, when the U.S. women's national team won the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time with Hamm and teammates including Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, and Kristine Lilly, Hamm became the youngest American woman to win a World Cup championship at the age of nineteen. In 1993, she graduated from college with the all-time records for her conference in goals with 103, assists with seventy-two, and total points with 278.
She has garnered numerous awards and recognitions during her career as a soccer player. Among those, she was elected as the Soccer USA's female athlete of the year five years in a row (1994-1998), MVP of the women's cup in 1995, one of the "fifty most beautiful people in the world" by People Magazine in 1997, and number 14 among soccer's most influential people by Soccer Business International magazine. She also won three ESPY awards in a row, given to her by ESPN, one of them being for "soccer player of the year" and the other two for "female athlete of the year."
In 1996, Hamm and the rest of the U.S. women's national team played for the gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics in front of 80,000 spectators in Athens, Georgia, then an all-time record for any women's sporting event. That day, Hamm and her teammates were able to beat China to win the gold medal.
In 1999, Nike named the largest building on their corporate campus after Hamm, and that same year she, Chastain, Kate Sobrero, Lorrie Fair, Tiffeny Milbrett, and the rest of the women on the national team became world champions again by winning the FIFA Women's World Cup. Chastain's take-the-jersey-off celebration after the win became an instant legendary sports moment. The final match surpassed the Atlanta Olympic final as the most-attended women's sports event, with over 90,000 filling the Rose Bowl.
Also in 1999, Hamm began the Mia Foundation, dedicated to help with bone marrow research and to help women's sports programs progress. She was inspired to create her foundation by her adoptive brother and original athletic inspiration Garrett, an Amerasian who died of a bone marrow disease shortly after the 1996 Olympics.
She was first married in 1994 to her college sweetheart Christiaan Corry, a Marine pilot, but their marriage was strained by long absences (his as a military aviator, and hers in international soccer), and they divorced in 2001. On November 22, 2003, Hamm and baseball player Nomar Garciaparra were married at Santa Barbara, California in a private ceremony. A few hundred guests attended. On May 14, 2004, she announced her retirement effective after the 2004 Summer Olympics, expressing an interest in starting a family with Garciaparra. To the end of her career, she enjoyed meeting and greeting her many fans, especially young girls, and signing autographs.
In March 2004, Hamm and former U.S.A. teammate Michelle Akers were the only two women, and the only two Americans, named to the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living soccer players selected by PelĂ© and commissioned by FIFA for that organization's 100th anniversary.
In a friendly game against Australia on July 21, 2004, Hamm scored her 150th international goal; she has long held the record in that category for any player, male or female. This match also marked her 259th international appearance; only her teammate Kristine Lilly has played in more internationals.
She helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics and was also chosen by her fellow U.S. Olympians to carry the American flag at the Athens Closing Ceremonies. After the Olympics, Hamm and her teammates went on a "farewell tour" of the United States, which finished on December 8, 2004 against Mexico at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. In the game, which the U.S. won 5-0, Hamm assisted on two of the goals. During halftime, she switched jerseys from one with "Hamm" on the back to one with "Garciaparra." Hamm is one of three longtime national team members who announced their retirement from international play at the end of the tour; the others are longtime captain Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett (Fawcett did not play due to back surgery after the Olympics). Hamm retired with 158 international goals, more than fifty ahead of any other player (male or female), and 276 caps, second only to Kristine Lilly.