Twenty-year old Ana Maria Montoya (above, middle), a Beaverton native, is currently playing with the Colombian Women’s National Team as they prepare for group play in the London 2012 Summer Olympics. The young midfielder could make her Olympic debut in Las Cafeteras' first game is this moring against North Korea (11:30am PT, MSNBC). Montoya, awaiting her junior year at the University of Arizona, started playing soccer at the age of five and played youth soccer with the Westside Metros (now the Westside Timbers of the adidas Timbers Alliance). Montoya also competed in Oregon ODP soccer while attending Southridge High School in Beaverton.
Because of family connections (her dad is one of 14 children, and most of her family still lives in Colombia), Montoya was able to try out for the Colombian U-17 Women’s National Team when she was 16. She subsequently made the squad, and competed with the team in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008. Now, Montoya is at the pinnacle of Colombian Women’s soccer, and has a chance to bring home gold.
How did it feel to make the Olympics and to have a chance to represent Colombia?
Making the Olympic team has been a dream of mine ever since I was . . . I don’t even know. The age of five. I actually remember when I was little, I’d watch the Olympics with my best two friends. We’d always watch the Olympics and we’d always think, “Oh my gosh, can you imagine if we’d ever make it there?” And so now that I actually did it, I just remember that moment when I was little, watching the Olympics. It’s kind of surreal.
How does it feel it be from Oregon, but to be representing Colombia at the national stage?
Coming from Beaverton, it’s a small town. I don’t come from Los Angeles or anything. I feel very proud to come from such a small place and be going to such a large event. I need to always remember where I come from. It’s something I try to remind myself every day.
What is one thing you’re looking forward most to during the Olympics?
I know as a youth player, every time you hear the national anthem, and you’re on the field, you’re representing the whole country. It’s just something that I feel very privileged to have that opportunity. I’m really excited to be on the field again and hear the national anthem in a national surrounding or environment.
Who are some of your soccer heroes?
Growing up, I always looked up to Mia Hamm. I remember when the Women’s World Cup was in the USA, they actually played in PGE Park (now JELD-WEN Field). I was in middle school, and I remember her playing in the World Cup. I was in awe that I was in the stands and watching her play in person, not on TV. I always aspired to be like her. I’d watch the games, and the next day try to do what she did on the field. I just remember always wanting to be like Mia Hamm since I can remember.
Do you follow the Timbers?
I do . . . I’m friends with some of the Colombian players. When I was in town last summer, I went to dinner with them, so that was pretty cool.
What advice can you give young Latinas in Oregon who may be trying to achieve what you have?
I think it’s just to never give up, and impossible is nothing, because I feel like there have been so many instances where I could have just been like, “You know, enough is enough, I’ve had a great soccer career. I’ve made it this far.” I could just easily walk away from the game, but as I haven’t given up, I’ve kept going, and pushing myself to be a better player. I feel like it’s opened a lot of doors. Never give up. Never stop dreaming.