By Brian Deakyne
NEPTUNE — With several hundreds of friends, family and fans in attendance, United State National women’s soccer team captain Christie Rampone did her best to thank and acknowledge every person who gathered at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
Still, the woman who has been playing soccer since she was five years old struggled to hold in the excitement.
“To see all these people here gives me the chills. I just want to go out on the field and play right now,” Rampone said.
Rampone was greeted at the hospital where she is a spokesperson for the K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital for a pep rally as the United States women’s team prepares to compete in the 2012 summer Olympics in London in July.
“We are so proud of Christie and the fact that she is headed to her fourth Olympic games,” Jersey Shore University Medical Center president Steve Littleson said. “The theme of the summer Olympics this year is to inspire a generation. By looking at the crowd of people today, I think Christie Rampone has done just that.”
Rampone has lived in Monmouth and Ocean County her entire life. She graduated from Point Pleasant Borough High School, played collegiate soccer at Monmouth University and currently resides in Manasquan.
“Growing up and playing soccer since I was five-years-old, to see this much support is amazing,” Rampone said. “Even at 37-years-old, and I’m not afraid to show hold old I am. It’s really great.”
Rampone is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world of women’s soccer, having played in the summer Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
“We just came off a tough tournament, but we played some good games against Sweden and Japan. This team has every reason to bring momentum into the summer Olympics,” Rampone said.
Rampone, who is the only player on the team that is a mother, has been a long-time supporter of kids in the Jersey Shore area, including becoming the spokesperson for the children’s hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
“Christie is always talking about kids eating right and staying healthy,” Littleson said.
“I read an article last week where Christie said her best feeling is when her family is cheering her on,” Neptune Township Mayor Randy Bishop said. “Well, I want to let her know that when she goes to London, her extended family at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and the township of Neptune will be cheering her on.”
The United States team heads to London on July 10 and will begin play on July 25.
Before signing autographs for the hundreds of young soccer players on line, Rampone did offer some light to the U.S.’s plan overseas.
“We take pride that we are the only women’s soccer team that has finished in the top three in every tournament we’ve ever played in,” she said. “We’re going to look to continue to do that over there. We’re going to work hard and do our best to bring the gold medal home.”