Carli Lloyd on Her Hunt for a Third Olympic Title

carli lloyd

The soccer superstar is in no danger of slowing down.

At 39, Carli Lloyd will be the oldest player to represent the U.S. women’s soccer team at the Olympics. And the striker hasn’t lost a step.

Lloyd made a name for herself after her stunning hat trick in the 2015 World Cup (which included this absurd goal from half field). Even still, she was considered by some a long shot to make the 18-player roster — especially after a knee surgery had kept her off the pitch for part of last year.

“It was definitely tough, but I worked and trained harder than I ever have post-surgery,” Lloyd told us.

With the help of a new strength trainer, Lloyd said she’s become “more explosive than I have ever been, and stronger than I was before my injury.” It’s shown in her performances on the field this year: Lloyd’s appeared in all of the team’s 12 matches, leading the squad in assists and scoring three goals, including an exquisite diving header against Mexico last month. 

“I gotta say, six months ago at the start of January camp, I was like ‘There’s no way Carli Lloyd is making that Olympic roster,” said Danielle Slaton, an NBC analyst and 2000 silver medalist. “Shame on me for betting against Carli Lloyd. It’s like betting against Tom Brady or Lebron James. You just don’t do it.”

Ahead of the team’s first match this week against rival Sweden, Lloyd spoke to us about what it took to battle back from injury, how she’s remained at top form throughout her decorated career, what the mood’s like in the Olympic Village, and more.

KCM: How did you feel when you learned that you’d been selected for the Olympic roster? The team has so much talent — were you nervous at all about making the cut?

Lloyd: The feeling never gets old being selected for an Olympic team. I was incredibly grateful to be part of this squad, especially since the depth of this team is unbelievable. It’s a remarkable honor that I am truly humbled by and it always feels so special to represent Team USA.

You’ll be the oldest player the women’s national team has sent to the Olympics. How do you keep yourself fit to compete? Have you had to adjust your training regimen throughout your career?

I’ve always tried to continue to be the best I possibly can be, and break barriers, and push myself each and every year. I have always taken the long-game approach. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve constantly tried to find more ways to keep evolving and getting better and be as efficient as possible. I’ve found that throughout my career, body-weight exercises, plyometrics, and soccer specific fitness has helped me feel my best and build the longevity I’ve had. 

Since my knee injury, I’ve been craving ways to become even better. That led me to working with my new strength trainer, Chris Halladay. He introduced me to a new type of training that’s a neurological, physics-based approach to help with sports performance and movements. Since I started training with Chris back in November 2020, I’ve never moved better. I’m more explosive than I have ever been and stronger than I was before my injury. It’s played a huge factor in my game at the age of 39.

Off the field is just as important as on the field. You have to take care of your body, with sleep, hydration, recovery, and nutrition playing a huge role. Many naïve people think when they’re younger that they can get away with a poor diet, but then when they’re older they wish they would’ve taken better care of themselves and prioritized nutrition. In 2009, I started to get into organic foods and changed my diet and habits, and noticed an immediate effect in my performance.

You came back from a knee surgery last year. What was rehabbing and getting back into shape like, and doing all that through the pandemic?

It was definitely tough: I spent 9 weeks doing physical therapy, resting, and trying to figure out why I had swelling in my knee. But I finally realized nothing was really helping, so I went to a doctor in Philadelphia who went over my options — we came to the conclusion that I’d need a scope on my knee. Given COVID, I was able to be super conservative and give it plenty of time to heal. I was able to build myself back better than ever. Since surgery, my knee has been fantastic, with no issues whatsoever.

Consistency has also been key for me throughout my career and that was easier during the pandemic. Sleep, hydration, nutrition, putting in more hours training, ball work, and fitness, and my new strength-training program became key priorities. After my injury, I started using CBDMEDIC products to help with my recovery. CBD has made a big difference in managing through the pain I was experiencing — I noticed instant relief while using it. It’s really helped me get back into the game and continue doing what I love most on and off the field.

This’ll be the first Olympic Games that CBD usage hasn’t been on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances and I’m glad more athletes are experiencing the benefits of CBD to help with safe pain relief.

This Olympics, I’m sure, feels a little different with the pandemic restrictions. How does it compare so far to prior Olympics?

It feels different for sure, but I always try to see the positive in everything and feel so fortunate that they were postponed and not cancelled. The best thing about an Olympics is the experience of being at the Village, the Opening and closing ceremonies, and touring around the country. Our team won’t get to experience all that, but we have to remember we’re still able to compete . Ultimately, I just feel so honored to be here. I’m physically and mentally ready.

The team’s had some great tune-up matches leading up to Tokyo. Do you feel like the squad has a good shot at becoming the first to win a World Cup and Olympics back to back?

We’re so prepared and ready: We had two great sendoff matches against Mexico in Hartford and a great pre-training camp in Miyazaki, Japan. Now it’s about putting all that preparation together and going out and playing. The most important key is to take it one game at a time.

Other than winning gold, do you have any personal goals going into the tournament?

I’m here to win a gold medal. It would be a dream come true and I’ve prepared the best I can. I’m going to work as hard as I can and leave it all out on the field.

If you were to win gold again, would you consider possibly retiring?

I’m not in a position to make any decisions right now. For now, I just want to live in this moment, and do my best at these Olympic games. Then reflect on everything when I get back.

This interview has been edited and condensed.