Abby Wambach gets surprise at finish line after NYC Marathon

Retired USWNT player Abby Wambach celebrates after finishing the 2021 New York City Marathon
Seth Rubinroit

By Seth Rubinroit

NEW YORK – An unexpected yet familiar face approached Abby Wambach when the retired soccer star crossed the finish line of the 2021 TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday.

Shalane Flanagan, the 2017 NYC Marathon champion and 2008 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist, waited around at the Central Park finish line after finishing her own race – her sixth marathon in 43 days – to personally put Wambach’s finisher medal around her neck.

“That was one of the most pleasant surprises of my life,” Wambach said. “What a way to cross a finish line, to get a medal from one of your idols. It was incredible.”

Wambach completed the 26.2 miles in 3:44:25, easily beating her four-hour goal in her marathon debut.

“Doing a marathon is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done,” Wambach said. “I have so much respect for every person who attempts to do this, even if they don’t finish.”

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Wambach started running, sans soccer ball, shortly after retiring from the sport in 2015. She initially planned on making her marathon debut in 2020, but both of the races she signed up for—including the 2020 NYC Marathon—were canceled due to the pandemic. She used a training program from the coach of one of her three children’s middle school cross-country teams.

She entered Sunday’s race with left-ankle discomfort, and sure enough, she rolled the ankle again by stepping on a drainage grate about four or five miles into the race.

“It’s going to be swollen,” Wambach said, reaching down to untie her shoe. “I’ve rolled my ankle a dozen times. You don’t think about and just keep moving forward.”

The 2015 World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist said that running for nearly 225 straight minutes is much more grueling than playing in a soccer match with two 45-minute halves.

“When you’re playing in a soccer game, you’re not thinking ‘I can’t wait until this is over’ because there is so much going on over a shorter period of time,” Wambach said in an interview on behalf of Gatorade’s Gx Sweat Patch. “[During marathon running] you have so much to consider and so many opportunities to stop, so when you finally cross the finish line and you haven’t stopped and you actually get there, it feels like, ‘Oh my gosh. I can do anything.’”

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Two other retired U.S. women’s national soccer team players, Lauren Holiday (3:40:30) and Leslie Osborne (3:41:33), also ran the New York City Marathon on Sunday.

“We’ve been through literally everything together,” Holiday said, “so to go through this with them is really, really cool.”

The trio ran on behalf of the Jrue and Lauren Holiday (JLH) Social Impact Fund. They surpassed their fundraising goal of $26,200 to help combat systematic racism and socioeconomic inequality.

“I thought about that like 100 times while I was running,” Holiday said. “I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing this for something bigger. Everyone who donated to the JLH Fund, you helped me get over the line.”

Holiday’s husband, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, is not ready to follow in his wife’s footsteps and become a marathoner.

“I would never do this in my life, ever,” Jrue Holiday, who rode his bike alongside his wife during her long runs, said recently to Milwaukee media. “There’s no point to me. But more power to her because I don’t know how people do it. Running is not for me.”

Lauren Holiday said she would not try to convince her husband to run a marathon, adding “I might be one-and-done myself.”

Wambach did not close the door on running another marathon, saying “I want to take a rest and then I’ll decide what’s next, whether it’s another marathon or another goal.”

Wambach’s immediate post-race plans involved taking a nap. The night before the race, she went with her wife, best-selling author Glennon Doyle, to see singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile perform Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue at Carnegie Hall.

Doyle, who tweeted that she made a sign that read “BABE YOU CAN STOP WHENEVER YOU WANT TO,” darted around New York City to support her wife.

“I might become a professional cheerleader for marathons because I had such an amazing time,” Doyle said. “I feel like if everyone went to a marathon and witnessed this act of will and beauty, we would have world peace. It made me love everyone in the world.”

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.

How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.

Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.

More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.