The Associated Press has named soccer player Abby Wambach its 2011 Female Athlete of the Year. Known for her game-winning goal in the final seconds of the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals against Japan, Wambach is the first soccer player, male or female, to win the award as an individual.
Thanks to her starring role in one of the most exciting sports stories in 2011, Wambach had little competition for the award. She received 65 out of 214 first-place votes, with teammate Hope Solo coming in second with 38 votes.
Although Wambach appreciated the award, she told the Associated Press that she was most excited about the recognition that women's soccer had received. "We, as a team, did something that no team since Mia Hamm was able to do," she told the AP. "Even the team that won the (Olympic) gold medal in 2008 wasn't able to inspire and get people excited about women's soccer. It goes to show you the impact [that] drama can bring."
Wambach is currently training for the regional Olympic qualifying tournament in January, and she's planning to help the U.S. defend its women's soccer gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics.