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Abby Wambach was a class act after the U.S. loss to Japan in the Women's World Cup

by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm •  Published: July 18, 2011

I'm an Abby Wambach fan.

You should be, too.

Not because of her phenomenal play these past few weeks in the Women's World Cup. Not because of her dramatic flair with all those amazing headers. Not even because of her warrior mentality playing with an Achilles injury that many believe is more severe than she's let on.

No, you should love her because of her sportsmanship.

In the moments after Team USA suffered heartbreak like never before, Wambach was the model of grace and class.

A sports world that is often void of common decency should take notice.

Millions around the world watched the scene unfold. Tied after 120 minutes, the United States and Japan went to penalty kicks. The Americans failed to convert their first three, and the Japanese claimed the cup on their fourth kick.

The stunned Americans huddled at midfield as the Japanese celebrated.

But as soon as the U.S. broke, Wambach walked toward the Japanese players. She shook hands. She patted backs. She offered congratulations. She was the only American player to do so in those moments immediately following the game, her white jersey standing in stark contrast to Japan's blue.

It wasn't the easy thing to do, but it was the right thing.

No one felt worse about the U.S. loss than Wambach. The 31-year-old has been the emotional leader for Team USA for nearly a decade. She gives her everything. She invests her heart. She sacrifices her body.

Last year when the U.S. was attempting to qualify for the Women's World Cup in a match against Mexico, she gashed her head in a midair collision. She was bleeding profusely, but right there on the field, a trainer stapled up the injury.

No anesthesia.

Wambach is all in.

Before Sunday's final, she was candid about her desire to win. She had played in the Women's World Cup two other times and had yet to loft the cup. She said she was tired of being forced to watch another team do that.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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