Where are they now?: Sara Whalen
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 00:03
For any women’s soccer fan, the image of Brandi Chastain after she scored the winning penalty kick for Team USA in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final against China is unforgettable.
Although Chastain was the heroine that day, the most noticeable feature on the picture that appeared on the cover of the July 19, 1999 edition of Time Magazine was a woman bear-hugging Chastain marked with the number “7.”
That woman was UConn’s own Sara Whalen.
Whalen enrolled at UConn after graduating high school in 1994. She played as a defender for the Huskies in her first three seasons while earning the 1995 and 1996 Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. In her senior year, head coach Len Tsantiris moved Whalen to the midfield/forward position, and she didn’t let it go to waste, by scoring a team-best 21 goals with 22 assists that season.
One of Whalen’s most memorable highlights at UConn came in the 1997 NCAA Final Four against the then-undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as she scored both goals in the 2-1 upset win.
Over her four seasons as a Husky, Whalen started in a school record of 99 games. She also earned numerous accolades, including NSCAA First-Team All-American from 1995-1997, the NSCAA Player of the Year in 1997 and the Honda Award (nation’s best collegiate female athlete) winner in 1998.
During the summers from 1998 to 2000, Whalen became a contributive reserve player on the U.S. national team. The squad won the 1999 World Cup and took home silver from the 2000 Summer Olumpics in Syndey.
By the time Whalen returned from the Olympics, the Women’s United Soccer Association was established, and she was assigned to the New York Power prior the inaugural 2001 season. There, Whalen helped the Power to finish third out of the eight teams in the league that year, including a trip to the semifinals.
However, Whalen suffered a horrific injury the next season as she tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee after colliding with an opposing player during a match. Shortly after the reconstructive surgery, Whalen had developed a life-threatening infection that caused her heart to temporarily stop pumping during an operation.
Whalen made several attempts over the next two years to come back to the sport, but ultimately had to forfeit her career due to the injuries.
Since then, Whalen has gotten married to Jon Hess, a Princeton alum and a Nasdaq trader. She also competed in the New York City Marathon in 2004 and finished with a time of four hours, 19 minutes and 38 seconds.