LONDON – United States women's soccer star Sydney Leroux has revealed how the breakup of her relationship with Major League Baseball player Brett Lawrie saved her Olympic Games dream.
Leroux is part of the U.S. squad that is seeking to retain the gold medal it won in Beijing but admitted her career was in danger of stalling during her engagement to Lawrie, a third baseman with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Not content to fit into the role of the typical baseball wife, Leroux called time on the relationship last year, rededicated herself to soccer and is now one of the USA's most promising youngsters.
"I don't think I would be where I am if I were still engaged," Leroux said. "I think that now I have time to focus on me, and I don't think I did that when I was in a relationship with my ex-fiance, so I’m happy.
"I mean, if I could thank him, for just, like, not having it work, I would because I know for a fact I would not be here. Ever since that happened I have kind of rebuilt my dreams again."
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The U.S. suffered heartbreak at the Women's World Cup in Germany last summer, losing to Japan in a penalty shootout in the final following a dramatic run that saw it scrape past Brazil in a thrilling quarterfinal comeback.
Head coach Pia Sundhage was pleased with the Americans' tenacious rally in its Olympic opener, overturning a two-goal deficit to beat France 4-2. That was followed by a 3-0 cruise past Colombia on Saturday and, assuming the expected victory over North Korea is completed on Tuesday, the U.S. will finish at the top of Group G and give itself an easier quarterfinal draw.
Leroux replaced Abby Wambach for the final 12 minutes of the game and will likely see further playing time in the later rounds thanks to her pace and vision. The 22-year-old Leroux, who moved to the States from Canada as a teenager, looks certain to have a long career with the team ahead of her. Even so, getting her hands on Olympic gold in 2012 would be a dream come true.
Looking back 18 months, though, Leroux’s participation in the Games could not be assured. Struggling for form and confidence, she decided that breaking off her engagement to Lawrie was the only way to resurrect her stalling career.
"The discontent had been growing," Leroux told ESPN LA. "And I wasn't strong enough to do it. And then one day I woke up and I was like, 'Wow, I think I deserve more than this. I don't think this is the life I want.'
"Getting engaged and being married to someone who is trying to do the same thing you are… I'm a girl and, what he does is much bigger than what I do. I think I was content on just being that girl. Now I look back and I'm like, wow, do I have a lot to show these wives. That's not the way it has to happen. I have never felt as much at peace with myself than I am now.”
With Germany, one of the best women's sides in the world, having failed to qualify for the tournament, the women's competition could boil down to a fight between Brazil, Japan and the U.S.
Whatever happens, Leroux seems destined for a golden future in soccer.
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