It was an inauspicious beginning to a stellar life: Olympic soccer champion Hope Solo has revealed how she was conceived during a conjugal visit while her father was in prison for embezzlement.
The goalie makes the starting revelation in her upcoming memoir Solo: A Memoir of Hope, and writes of her dad, "He was unreliable at best and a criminal at worst."
"To him, I was always Baby Hope. We had a special bond… But as I got older, I started to see the cracks in my idyllic life," she explains. "One spring, when I was a Brownie, the Girl Scout Cookie money went missing. Sometimes my father went missing. One morning, my mother went out to get her car and it was gone: repossessed for lack of payment."
"Later I learned that my father had taken my grandfather's checkbook out of my grandparents' home and stolen $1,800 by writing checks to himself. He told my grandfather he had been poking around in his private office because he wanted to take his guns, but they were all locked up. He found the checkbook instead."
"There was a lot we didn't know about Gerry Solo. For one thing, that wasn't his name. I found out later, through police reports, that his name was Jeffrey John Solo. Maybe. He had other names. One time, he hinted that his last name was really DeMatteo. Or was it really Beyers? In a police investigation, years later, we learned he had two social security numbers. He said he was from New York. He said his parents were from Italy and came over in the 1880s. He was born sometime before World War II. He said he had an aunt but grew up in an orphanage in the Bronx. He had a brother named Marcus, who, he said, died in a parachuting accident in Vietnam. He may have been a loan shark in Boston. He may have had another family in Michigan."
"How he got to Washington is also a mystery. He liked to hint that he had a criminal past, that he had been in the Mob. Maybe. Or maybe he wanted everyone to think he had. Maybe he was in the Witness Protection Program. He said he'd been a boxer and a semipro football player. He said he'd been in the navy and alluded to a tour of duty in Vietnam."
"And then my father was arrested for embezzlement," Solo reveals.
"It's a complicated thing, knowing how much pain my father caused in my life and the lives of others whom I love, yet still holding love for him in my heart. No matter what he did, he was my father. He helped create the person I am. He showered me with love; he just didn't know how to be a husband or a father or a responsible member of society. Yes, he was a con man. Yes, he was a ladies man… If I hadn't made peace with him later in my life, I'd still be bitter and angry."
Yet despite Solo's hardscrabble upbringing, she still became an Olympic champion. She has played for the U.S. Women's national soccer team since 2000, winning a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. Look for her to repeat the feat in the 2012 London Summer Games.
Solo: A Memoir of Hope is in bookstores Aug. 14. In the meantime, read more excerpts on NBC Olympics.
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