Mariel Margaret (Mia) Hamm is one of the world's best soccer players and attracted a huge following in the United States. During her collegiate years and as a member of the U.S. Women's National team, she became the best all-round women's soccer player in the world. After being a member of national teams that won two world championships and two Olympic gold medals, she retired from international competition in December 2004.
She was born in Selma, Alabama in 1972. She was one of four daughters of an Air Force pilot. Early in her life, Hamm discovered and developed a passion for the game of soccer. Her talent was also evident early; she was selected as an All-American in soccer while still in secondary school. By the age of 15 she was already a member of the U.S. Women's National Team.
Two years later, in 1989, she enrolled at the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill. Playing forward, she soon established herself as one of the stellar members of a squad that won four consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. She completed her university education, graduating with a degree in political science.
During her collegiate career, Hamm was a three-time All American in soccer. Upon graduation, she had become the Atlantic Coast Conference all-time leader in goals scored (103), assists (72), and points (278). She was the conference player of the year in 1990, 1992, and 1993, and in those same years led the nation in scoring. As well, she received the Honda-Broderick Award as the nation's outstanding collegiate female athlete in both 1994 and 1995.
Her soccer ability, determination, and sportsmanship earned her the nickname "Jordan" after a predecessor at UNC, basketball superstar Michael Jordan. In recognition of her illustrious collegiate career, UNC retired her number.
At the national level, her contributions were no less outstanding. While she did not score her first goal in international competition until her seventeenth game, she became a prodigious scorer thereafter.
Internationally, she was a member of the teams that placed second at the 1987 Olympic Festivals and first at the 1989 and 1990 Festivals, won the Women's World Cup in 1991 (where, at 19 years of age, she was the youngest member of the squad) and 1999, placed third in the World Cup held in 1995 (where she was the tournament's most valuable player with five goals and six assists) and 2003, and captured gold medals in the Summer Olympics of 1996 and 2004.
From 1994 through 1998, she was named U.S. Soccer's Female Athlete of the Year
Hamm's robust and aggressive style of play helped break down the stereotype of an elite woman athlete as being passive and loath to engage in a physical contest. As evidence of this passionate play, in 1999 she became the world's leading scorer (female or male) in international competition.
In 2001, Hamm was one of the founding members of the Women's United Soccer Association, a women's soccer league in the United States. While the league folded after three seasons, it raised the profile and interest in women's soccer in the United States.
Through the Mia Hamm Foundation (http://www.miafoundation.org) established in 1999, Hamm devotes a great deal of time and energy to raising awareness and funds for bone marrow research and in providing encouragement and support for female athletes. Her interest in leukemia stems from
Among the additional accolades she has received are a cover photo and story in a 1997 issue of Women's Soccer World and a 2003 issue of Sports Illustrated (then only the second female soccer player to appear on the cover), selection as the 1997 Women's Sports Foundation Athlete of the Year, selection as ESPN's Female Athlete of the Year for 1998 and 1999 and ESPN's Best Soccer Player in 2000 through 2004, being named one of the Most Beautiful People of 1997 by People magazine, and being the flag bearer at the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Olympic Games.
She has been singled out as one of three athletes who have changed the nature of their sport (the other two are Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods).
Hamm married to Christian Corry, a pilot in the Marine Corps, in 1994. They divorced in 2001. In 2003, she married baseball player Nomar Garciaparra.