Apr 15 U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM MEDIA SUMMIT: Quotes from Women's Soccer Press Conference Monday, April 14

April 15, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
Press Conference Quotes Monday, April 14 9:20 - 10:10 am Women's Soccer Participants: Head coach Pia Sundhage (PS) Kate Markgraf (KM) Heather O'Reilly (HO) Abby Wambach (AW) Quotes: Q: For the coach, what was it like to coach for China' PS: Well, I was very fortunate to have that opportunity as an assistant coach for the China team. It was important for me to learn as much as possible. Not only the team, but coaches' styles. It was a big advantage to be around other soccer coaches. Q: (Inaudible) AW: It is tough to compare teams. Players don't necessarily change. Coaches' tactics can change_. Pia has brought out different personalities. It is not easy going from one coach to another but I think where we are headed is in the right direction. The way we qualified by winning through penalty kicks says a lot about our team and how we have transitioned. Q: Pia, describe your style\reaction to the talent on the team' PS: I would love to talk about that for an hour. This team is a beautiful team. What we've tried to do is to sharpen up our defense a little bit with zone defending. I feel like I have great coaches around me and players. The midfielders have to step up. You have to have faith in your middle. We have great defense. It's about keeping possession and timing of the pass. You don't do that in a day. We have a little more to go. Q: Do you feel more pressure on this team with the new women's team coming back into the media' HO: I think the cool thing about this team is that we've always held ourselves to a high standard. We'll take care of things on the field and off the field everything else will fall into place. We're just doing our job day in and day out. Q: [Inaudible_] the struggle to get attention vs. the old guard' KM: I think people outside view it as a struggle, but we look at it as a great opportunity. There have been some voices that haven't been heard on our team. And now she is one of the most dominant people on the field. We see a lot of new personalities stepping up. We can't handle who the media wants to single out. AW: I think it is easy to just remember the old team, but this team, given the opportunity at the World Cup, we have earned the media coverage. But I think that the players that are not so well known are earning the respect of the media. As long as we keep coming along, I think that the things that haven't changed on this team are those things that have always made this team successful. I think the big thing this summer [is that] we will have another opportunity of earning that. So hopefully we can take advantage of it. Q: Any strong feelings about Tibet and Chinese policies' AW: I think this is a very interesting question that has obviously raised controversy in the entire world. And it is hard to say for my entire team or in representing an entire country. For me personally, I think what is important to know [is that] our first and our main focus is training right now and preparing for the summer and to win a gold medal. Are we still humans' And do we also have a consciousness in our minds and in our hearts' Yes. We hope to represent our country to the best of our ability and in doing so raising awareness to peace and community and bringing the world together and the Olympic Movement is our main objective. Q: Is the controversy [of protests] taking away from your sport' PS: I got a chance to represent China for half a year. I had the chance to talk to people about what is happening. I think that the beauty of the sport is you meet people. HO: I think the really neat thing is that the USOC has told us again and again how they wanted us to speak our minds. I think we as athletes are put in kind of a tough spot. We are socially aware people and we understand that people are using this as a platform. I think our focus as a team is on winning back that gold medal. We understand that there are distractions now. KM: I think the one thing that can't be overshadowed is the Olympic spirit. It's going to be an interesting event. Or favorite phrase is"It is what it is". Q: Olympic experience vs. World Cup' AW: I think Kate can speak to this... KM: Hopefully this will be my third Olympics and they are completely different. World Cup is solely based on soccer and totally focused on one thing. [For the Olympics] not only are you interacting with other soccer players_ you get to see other sports. Q: (Inaudible) Chinese team' PS: Well, when we took over this past year... you have to know it takes a while to get back into the game. Now they have a Chinese coach. It's hard for the soccer players to change coaches all the time. He knows the culture and players. And I am sure they will do well. They will have a large crowd, a very loud crowd to cheer for them all the time. So, they will play well in the Olympics. Q: (Inaudible) KM: You know there's no such thing as bad press. It may not be the way we wanted it out there. That was back in the fall. We worked really hard to get back to a place where the old and new can mix. Now we see what worked and what didn't work and the coach and everyone else have come up with a new standard of what we want our team to be. It was a great learning experience. I think we are a stronger team now because of it and hopefully that change will show in the Olympics. Q: (Inaudible_) pollution' PS: Well, I would say pollution is a problem for this earth. I come from Sweden and it's nice to breathe the Sweden air. The two teams have the same air to breathe. It might affect how tired our players are. HO: If I am lucky enough to play for the team, this will be my seventh time to China I never felt like China affected my performance by the pollution. We are pretty confident in our team. Q: (Inaudible_) overkill with the ostracizing' AW: I think it is important to know that hindsight is always 20-20. I think what is important is that we learned from the experience and our team grew a lot stronger because of it. For me personally, I learned the fact that what has allowed this team to be successful in the past is not necessarily talent but teammanship. In history it's not only the talented team, it's the team that is willing to fight for each other with each other. Not dwelling on what could have, should have happened. Q: (Inaudible_) strategies, team adjusting to new system' PS: Well, everything takes time. (sings) The times they are a changing... But first of all, if they accept and embrace the change. Everything takes time. I need their hearts. I need their passion. Show them positive things. We show them good things. Q: (Inaudible_) emotional reaction to political issues' HO: I think I was a little disappointed that people are forgetting the positive things with the Olympic Games and the spirit. If there needs to be change in the world, it's more than putting a torch in the water. I think there needs to be more that can be done. AW: And to add to that, I think it's really important to note that moving forward, we are athletes. We are going over there to play a sport and we hope to make change. We hope to create a climate to bring the world together. That's a lot of responsibility to ask an athlete to not only represent your country and perform and try to win a gold medal, and to have political view. And it is a lot for one person to take on. There is a time and a place for everything. You have to use the platform to set an example, speaking positively about things and find the good in the things. It is surely a lot, a lot, a lot of responsibility for an athlete to take on. Q: How has the system changed' AW: Great, great question. And my major feeling about it is relief. There are certain types of players that have the qualities of scoring goals and I'd like to think of myself as one of those players. I need the help of other players. The change that Pia has brought on is a more position style of attack. _. It's been quite a change because sometimes I get frustrated_ moving forward it's taught me to look outside myself and to rely on other people and I think that has really brought the team together.... Roundtable Quotes Kate Markgraf: -"We needed to change our game, we needed new ideas, and Pia was perfect for us." -"She brings this concept of team, which is what we really needed at the time." -"Our game is improving because our higher level of attack and the whole team concept."Abby Wambach: -"In order to be great as a forward, I focus on not only scoring goals, but also creating goals and opportunities."Heather O'Reilly: -"I made the national team when I was 17 years old and honestly it felt like I had won some kind of contest in a cereal box that was 'play with your idols for a day'. It was that kind of feeling. It took me a couple of years to really let myself know that when I go out there I'm bringing something to this team that nobody else can. Coach obviously brought me on for a reason. I think the Olympics in 2004 was a turning point for me because I came in off the bench and got a break away where the keeper came out and left an open net. I took the shot and hit the post. It was a very intense moment because my teammates had been playing for 90 minutes and I came in off the bench with fresh legs. It was a moment where I grew up. I didn't get myself upset or distraught and a few minutes later I had an opportunity off of a pass from Mia Hamm that I was able to put in the corner of the net and we ended up going to the finals. It was definitely a moment of maturity."
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