Gunning for the gold

Del Mar resident Rachel Buehler heads to Beijing

Looking for someone to root for in the Beijing Olympics? Look no further than women's soccer, where Del Mar native and Torrey Pines alum Rachel Buehler is making her Olympic debut. The unapologetically aggressive first timer will turn 23 just two days after the closing ceremonies at Beijing, hopefully with a gold medal as her new most favorite accessory.

"It's just such an honor to play on the team and represent my country," said Buehler. "It's the coolest dream I could ever think of. I've been working for this for a long time."

The defender came home to San Diego to play in a match against Brazil at University of San Diego last Wednesday, a 1-0 victory before a record-breaking crowd of 7,502. The game was the women's last before they kickoff the Olympics in a game versus Norway in Qinhuangdao on Aug. 6. The U.S. will also face Japan and New Zealand in the first round of play.

Off the field, the 5'5 Buehler plays very much the part of the girl next door - sweet and friendly with strawberry blond hair and freckles on her cheeks. She once played the title role of "Annie" in a school play and cops to owning lucky ladybug socks. But get her out on the soccer field and she transforms into one of the most tenacious tacklers in the history of the U.S. Women's National Team programs.

"She's a tough kid," said Head Coach Pia Sundhage. "You can trust her and have faith in her. It's hard for forwards to beat her because she's so tough."

A great example of Buehler's toughness is her overcoming two big injuries in her career. She's torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in both of her knees, the second time coming in 2003 just two weeks after recovering from her first.

"I'm very impressed with her attitude," Sundhage said. "The reason why she's on the national team is her attitude, it's her best quality. For the last few months, she's been a pleasure to be around."

Sundhage also said Buehler is a professional who takes good care of her body, always taking a longer warm-up when she needs it. And she is very willing to learn and get better - Sundhage said she always comes to practice with "big eyes and big ears."

"She's a dream for a coach," Sundhage said.

Buehler has been playing soccer since age 7, playing locally with the San Diego Surf Soccer Club. At Torrey Pines, she played varsity all four years and was captain of the team her junior and senior years. She was named defender of the year in 2000 and player of the year in 2001 and 2002.

She went on to play for Stanford, the alma mater of her heart surgeon father Don. Also like her father she was a biology/pre med major and has considered becoming a doctor.

Buehler was a starter on the U-19 U.S. team that won the 2002 FIFA Women's World Championship and went on to play internationally with the U-21 team as well. Her first full cap on this Women's National Team came at the Algarve Cup in Portugal this year.

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