Christie Rampone is a Gold Medal Mom. Literally. As the Captain of the US Women’s Soccer Team, Christie and her teammates have won two consecutive gold medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Together with her husband, Chris, and their 3 year-old daughter, Rylie, Christie spoke exclusively with Celebrity Parents Magazine about medals, being a (soccer) mom, and keeping it all simple.
Hair/Makeup: Alyssa Ciccotti
How did you prepare for the 2008 Olympics?
World Cup and Olympic years are huge years for Women’s Soccer and The US Women’s National Team. The team first gets together in January and we travel to China for the Four Nations Tournament. Once we return from China, we take a small break and we begin to prepare for the Algarve Cup in Portugal. Both of these tournaments really help us get ready for the World Cup and The Olympics. Starting in March we typically train for three weeks straight, rest for a week, and repeat that pattern till the World Cup and Olympics are over. People in our world refer to it as “Residency”.
Since 2003, most of the US Soccer Teams train at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. It is a beautiful complex with multiple fields for training and practice. The stadium is the home field for the LA Galaxy, David Beckham’s Team.
Did you have Rylie with you for the whole time?
Rylie is with us almost all the time except when we travel to dangerous places. Qualifying for the 2008 Olympics was held in Juarez, Mexico so our security team decided it was not safe for young children. In addition, the children are not allowed to be with the team during the actual World Cup and Olympic Tournaments. Each tournament is about 3 weeks so the players and staff working for the team miss the kids a lot. Last year Rylie traveled with the team to China, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, South Korea and at least 15 cities in the United States.
What was the experience of the Olympics like, and how did it compare with previous Olympics?
Each Olympic experience is very unique, because of the country it is being held and the culture. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China was my best experience because I was a Mom and the Captain of our Team. Winning never gets old, but it is really special when you get to share the experience with your family. This US Women’s Team went into this Olympics as an under-dog, and that has not happened in the past. Brazil beat us badly in the 2007 World Cup, and most media and soccer people did not think we had any chance to win Gold in 2008. After losing the first game against Norway, our whole team really pulled together and made it happen.
How did you find the caliber of the teams playing against you in this Olympics?
The competition in Women’s Soccer has never been better. The level of play gets better every year, and the talent on each team improves tremendously. Coaching is also at a much higher level, and the teams seem to always have a good plan of attack. The US Team in the past was able to have one or two easier games at different times in the tournament, but that does not happen anymore. The 2008 Brazil Team lead by Marta was definitely the toughest team we have ever played.
How many games did you play in total in Beijing?
We played a total of 6 games in the Beijing Olympics. The first three games are preliminary games, group play, that determine if you move on in the tournament. You get three points for a win and one point for a tie. In the first game, we lost to Norway. We won the second and third games against Japan and New Zealand so we finished with a total of six points. We finished first in our group and met Canada in the quarter-final game. We beat Canada in a thrilling over-time game and had to play Japan in the semi-final game. Japan had a great tournament, but we got by them and it was the USA vs. Brazil for Gold.
What memorable moments do you have from the Olympics?
The “Final Whistle” blowing in the Gold Medal Match, knowing that we had won and it was all over! The Olympic Village was great, and I got Chris and Rylie security passes so they could see what it was all about. The girls on the team bought little bikes, and we cruised around the Village. I remember always having to sneak food around, everywhere. The Chinese wanted us to eat their food, only. The cab rides were insane, crazy drivers! Rylie dancing on the medal stands after the ceremony was priceless. I really enjoyed going to Track and Field, Basketball and other sports as a spectator.
Describe the moment you won the Gold.
Overwhelming! So many different emotions, and there was a definite high. At one point there was a numbness, like I could not hear anything and it was peaceful. I could not believe it happened, you think it can happen but when it actually does happen, WOW!
What did you do immediately after you won the Gold?
I ran around the field, holding an American Flag looking in the stands for all the US families and friends. I was trying to find Rylie so she could come on field with me. Rylie always comes on the field after the games, but this game was biggest game ever!
Did winning the Gold in Beijing differ from winning your previous Gold in Athens?
Definitely! I had a different role on the team with different teammates. We all knew my older teammates were playing for the last time in Athens and we wanted to win for them. Beijing was a young team and the focus was on all of us.
You had mentioned that Rylie is a rock star in China.
Chinese people are obsessed with blonde hair, especially young children with blonde hair. Rylie was a two year old with curly, blonde hair so the Chinese people could not get enough of her. During one of my games, Chris bought Rylie ice cream. Rylie took her time eating the ice cream and hundreds of Chinese people gathered around her snapping photos. That would happen a lot.
How do you balance motherhood with being a professional athlete?
It has never been difficult for me. I try not to make things complicated. When I am at soccer, that is most important. When I am not with the team or training, Rylie is the most important thing. It might sound silly, but keeping things simple makes life more enjoyable for us.
Does Rylie always travel with you, and how does she handle the traveling?
Rylie is a great traveler! She loves trains, planes, buses and hotels. The hardest part is the different time zones. Rylie sometimes takes a few days to get adjusted. She loves traveling with all the girls and interacting with so many different personalities.
Is she showing any interest in soccer?
She does show some interest. She really likes dribbling and kicking the ball, but I don’t think she enjoys watching soccer games, yet.
What are you currently training for now?
There is a new Women’s Professional Soccer League and I will be playing on the New Jersey Team, Skyblue FC. Our first game is April 5th so the team will begin training soon. There will be teams in Boston, DC, St. Louis, Chicago, LA and San Jose. Our team will play most of our home games at Rutgers University.
What are your plans for the future, professionally and personally?
I’m going to start training for the 2011 World Cup in Germany and the 2012 Olympics in London. But first, I plan on trying for a little sister or brother for Rylie!