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Summer of Soccer: Mallory Pugh is One Kickin’ Kid!

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​In 1996, the United States won the first ever Olympic gold medal in women's soccer. That victory inspired countless young American girls to get into the sport.

Mallory Pugh is not one of those girls, for a very simple reason: She wasn't even born yet. Pugh is just 18 years old. But her youth hasn't prevented her from getting a shot at making Olympic history of her own. The forward scored in her debut with the women's national team against Ireland in January, becoming the team's youngest goal scorer in 11 years. A few weeks later she became the youngest U.S. player to appear in an Olympic qualifying match when she saw time in a 5-0 win over Costa Rica.

Pugh — whose high school GPA was around 3.6 — had to lug her textbooks with her on that qualifying trip. Seeing her with a calculus book was a reminder that no matter how mature she looks when she's darting between defenders on the field, she is just a kid. Pugh — who was one of five finalists for the 2012 SI KIDS SportsKid of the Year award—says it can be tricky balancing playing soccer at an elite level with having a "normal" teen life.

"Sometimes, obviously, I'll miss out on going to a school basketball game or whatever and I'll get upset, but I know that being here with the national team is such a great opportunity," she told Kid Reporter Hollis Belger. "All my friends know that. I think they're just super happy for me, which makes going away from home a little easier." (It also helps, she says, that "my teachers are super, super cool about me missing school, and they understand what it's for.")

Her next trip, if all goes according to plan, will be to Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Games. She'll help the U.S. try to defend its 2012 gold medal — and follow in the footsteps of the legends who helped put women's soccer on the map a short lifetime ago.

For more about Mallory Pugh, check out Kid Reporter Hollis' interview with the rising star!

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP