LOS ANGELES –– For Abby Wambach, fulfilling the dream of winning a Women’s World Cup championship continues, and she doesn’t want the feeling she and her teammates have been experiencing in the last two weeks to end.
“I feel like I’ve been living in a dream world,” Wambach said at the Gatorade Athlete of the Year event Tuesday night. “It’s been super special and something that I don’t want to ever go away. I want to keep celebrating and keep being able to call myself a world champion.
“I wake up every morning and say, ‘Yup, I’m still a world champion’ and it isn’t ever going to stop and it’s never going to go away.”
Since beating Japan in Canada, the U.S. women’s national team has been feted with parades in Los Angeles and New York, an appearance on stage at a Taylor Swift concert, magazine covers and media appearances. She helped present the Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year award Tuesday and will present the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlyn Jenner on Wednesday night at the ESPYs.
Wambach joked during the ceremony that she didn’t know what a ticker tape parade was until she was in one.
“It’s all been surreal, to be honest,” she said. “I was 19 when the 1999 team won the Women’s World Cup and what a pleasure it was to watch and see our national pride and our country get behind that team and be so vocal.
“For me, now to be on the team and everyone is showering us with accolades and parades. It’s nothing short of miracle workings happen. … There are some moments that I still can’t believe we did it. That’s what made it all so special and so transparent and so many people can attach themselves to it. It’s such a genuine feeling and I think that translates and resonates with the American public.”
Wambach has not forgotten her roots and values her upbringing in Rochester, N.Y., when she was named the Gatorade Player of the Year at Our Lady of Mercy. Wambach was among 11 former Gatorade state winners on the U.S. women’s national team roster. The roster also features five former national winners, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Lauren Holiday (née Cheney) and three-time Olympic gold medalist Heather O’Reilly.
She has not had a chance to get home, but is looking forward to an upcoming family vacation in Alexandria Bay in the Thousands Islands and plans to “turn her cell phone off and get away.”
“I feel like I’ve been in airport or on an airplane or a hotel since the World Cup ended,” she said. “I’m probably going to get home to Rochester at the end of this month.
“I couldn’t appreciate the Rochester fans any more… Rochester has been following me since high school and been my biggest fan and I couldn’t have achieved the level of success that I’ve gotten without not only being from Rochester, but their support as well.”
Before she gets to wind down, Wambach and her teammates are trying to make the most of the moment.
“I know everyone on our national team is trying to capitalize on this as much as possible,” she said. “Unlike the men, where they get paid a considerable amount of money when and if they win their World Cup, we don’t get compensated as the men do. We have to capitalize on all the different opportunities that we can get right now. Hopefully, we can keep pushing that needle in terms of getting more equal in pay.”
Wambach said her plan as a player was always to win and score goals. She’s done plenty of both in her career, but now she has her sport’s ultimate prize.
“Winning is really what it’s all about,” she said. “You can talk to all the professional athletes here and they’ll say it was amazing to ink that $100 million deal or $200 million deal, but there really is nothing like winning.
“You can’t put a price tag on that. I’ve just had the most wild couple of days. It’s been amazing.”