5 Things To Know About Team USA’s Melissa Gonzalez

With the 2016 Rio Olympics right around the corner, it’s time we get better acquainted with one of our fellow Latinos representing in #TeamUSA. Olympic Hockey midfielder Melissa Gonzalez is truly a force to be reckoned with. With her spunky charisma and hardcore dedication, it’s no surprise the Puerto Rican athlete is on the road to next month’s Olympics in Rio. Here are 5 things to know about the all-star before the games officially begin…

Family Matters
*Cue theme song* She might have a new squad on the field, but it’s her blood family that keeps her going. Raised in a rather large household, Gonzalez is the youngest of four sisters. Her parents, Felix and Yolanda Gonzalez, were both educators, passing on their knowledge and views to their athletic offspring. Unfortunately Gonzalez’s father passed away when she was 17, which later fueled her career and dedication to succeed.

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“Her father was a big part of her life, he passed away when she was a junior in high school,” shared University of Connecticut head coach, Nancy Stevens. “He told her when she was very young that she was going to be an Olympian, meaning he installed that dream in her when she was very young. He said, ‘I have no idea what sport you’re going to play, but you are going to be in the Olympics.'”

According to NBC Olympics, Gonzalez walks around with a tattoo on her foot in the shape of heart, with the words “love” to honor her late father. She also wears a sweatband with her father’s initials embroidered for motivation during her long, exhausting training sessions.

Throwing it way back: to the days when my dad thought he was Indiana jones & I was just a stoop kid #glorydays #RIP

A photo posted by Melissa Gonzalez (@mgonzalez13) on

Young, But Accomplished
Don’t underestimate this chica. At only 27, the young hockey player has quite a list of impressive awards and accomplishments under her belt. Including winning Gold at the 2011 Pan American Games, 2013 World League Round 2, 2014 Champions Challenge and 2015 Pan American Games. She made her Olympic Games debut in 2012 at the London Games and finished in an impressive fourth place at the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup. Now, she’s ready to take on the 2016 Rio Olympics head strong.

Gonzalez led her Lakeland High School field hockey team to victory in the state championships both in 2003 and 2006, but was also the captain of her school’s lacrosse team. While attending the University of Connecticut she won not one, but two Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards. However, she was initially recruited to UConn to play soccer, not field hockey. Later on, the multi-disciplined athlete decided she’d play field hockey instead. 

Loves To Give Back
Although she’s been incredibly successful, she hasn’t forgotten her humble beginnings. Coaching at several camps and volunteering at UConn, Yale and the University of Massachusetts when she’s not hard at work, she acknowledges the importance of inspiring and pushing others just like her. In 2010 and 2011 she partnered up with Friends of Jaclyn, a support group that brings sports to the life of children with brain tumors.

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Off the Field
When she’s not breaking a sweat, the sports jock is actually your average girl-next door. Her sense of humor, truly refreshing and one of a kind, shines on social media where Gonzalez loves to show off her personality with her followers. When she’s not cracking jokes, she’s hanging with her friends and teammates (and probably cracking even more jokes). She enjoys hiking, collecting sneakers and reading.