Kelley O’Hara says Olympics are harder to win than World Cup

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The Tokyo Olympics are now just two weeks away, and athletes are in full preparation mode. That includes Kelley O’Hara, who will be competing in her third Olympics later this month with the USWNT.

O’Hara spoke with ESPN’s Katie Nolan about her Olympics prep on the latest episode of the Just Women’s Sports podcast.

While the World Cup is often considered the more significant tournament in soccer, O’Hara says the Olympics are their own unique challenge.

“Winning a gold medal is physically more difficult,” O’Hara tells Nolan. The schedule is more compact than it is at the World Cup, with the Olympics requiring teams to play every three days.

“After a 90-minute game, I’m still recovering on the third day,” O’Hara says.

While the World Cup may always be the more important tournament, O’Hara says being at the Olympics is its own unique experience.

“The Olympics are very, very cool because it is sport — it’s the world’s athletes convening in one place.”

O’Hara’s own infatuation with the Olympic games started when she was just a kid watching women’s gymnastics.

“My first Olympic memory as a child was the 1996 gymnastics team,” she recalls, adding that watching that team solidified her own Olympic dreams.

O’Hara won Olympic gold in 2012 with the USWNT, playing every minute of every game. In 2016, however, the team was upset in the quarterfinals, losing to Sweden in penalties.

“Losing in 2016, we should’ve won that game,” O’Hara says. The loss, however, taught the US defender that it’s not enough to just be the best team.

“You have to win every single game. Nothing is given, anything can happen.”

The Tokyo Olympics will give the USWNT a chance at revenge (they play Sweden in their opening game) while also giving the team a chance to make history as the first team to ever win the World Cup and the Olympics in back-to-back tries.

With an Olympic gold and two World Cups already to her name, O’Hara says she is still greedy for more wins, starting with another medal in Tokyo.

“I know that my career is finite… as a professional athlete, you have a very small window to achieve all of the things that you want to achieve.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Kelley O’Hara and Katie Nolan here.