Soccer Star With Soap Opera Roots Aims At Olympics | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Soccer Star With Soap Opera Roots Aims At Olympics

Play associated audio

Indiana University soccer star Orianica Velasquez is on a mission — to get to the London Olympics with Colombia's women's soccer team. And she wants to send a message about the country where she was born.

"My dream is to get a medal for Colombia," she says, adding that she wants to show the world "it's just not violence, it's just not drugs — we can play soccer and we can do great things because we have great people there."

The coach of the Colombian women's team, Ricardo Rozo, says he didn't discover Velasquez's raw athletic talent on the field — he discovered it on TV. She was playing a teen in a soap opera about soccer. The program, Juego Limpio, or Fair Play, embodies the spirit of soccer for many Colombian fans.

Rozo recruited Velasquez away from the show to play for the Colombian women's team, and then Indiana coach Mick Lyon brought her to the U.S.

"She's a good forward because she's greedy," Lyon says. "And that's what you ask for your forwards to be — go to goal with the belief that you are going to score or create a chance."

Lyon helped Velasquez learn English and fight off homesickness for a family and culture 2,000 miles away.

Velasquez represented Colombia at the Women's World Cup in 2011. A couple of weeks ago, she played one of the last matches of her junior year at Indiana.

Players slid across the muddy, rain-soaked U-School Field. It wasn't an easy day to play soccer, but that didn't keep Velasquez from hunting down the ball. She scored one goal, then another. Ultimately, IU didn't win, but Velasquez moved with intuition and power.

Today, she lives in a quiet, sparsely decorated apartment. Christmas decorations still hang in the living room. In the bedroom, she has keepsakes, like the purple soccer cleats she used in the World Cup and her retired jerseys.

Holding her Colombian national jersey, Velasquez says she associates the yellow and blue with home and family. Her parents have never watched her play for her college team, and they won't be there in London either — it's more than they can afford. Velasquez is asking them to record messages that she'll listen to on her iPod before matches. She's also recorded her own words of encouragement.

"You just need to enjoy [it] and play hard," she tells herself. "This is for your family; this is for yourself. You better win. You better win, that's all I can say. And score, please, score."

This is the first time Colombia's women's team has made it to the Olympics. The men's team didn't make the cut this year, and that's a big deal for a country as soccer-obsessed as Colombia. It means that, at this summer's games, it'll be up to the women to salvage Colombia's national pride. And Orianica Velasquez will be on the front lines.

Copyright 2012 KBIA-FM. To see more, visit http://www.kbia.org.

NPR

Multispectral Imaging Could Reveal Secrets Of Martellus Map

A team of researchers are using multispectral imaging to uncover hidden text on a 1491 Martellus map, one of the most important maps in history. Lead researcher Chet Van Duzer thinks the discoveries will allow historians and scholars to see just how the map influenced cartography in its time.
NPR

Diet Soda May Alter Our Gut Microbes And The Risk Of Diabetes

There's a new wrinkle to the old debate over diet soda: Artificial sweeteners can alter our microbiomes. And for some, this may raise blood sugar levels and set the stage for diabetes.
NPR

A New Campaign Ad Sport: Billionaire Bashing

It's open season on the wealthy political donors. Democratic campaign ads tie Republican candidates to the Koch brothers, while GOP ads paint sinister images of George Soros and Tom Steyer.
NPR

3.7 Million Comments Later, Here's Where Net Neutrality Stands

A proposal about how to maintain unfettered access to Internet content drew a bigger public response than any single issue in the Federal Communication Commission's history. What's next?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.