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On June 28, 2022, Carson Pickett made history as the first athlete with a limb difference to play on the US women's national soccer team (USWNT). The 28-year-old, who filled in for defender Emily Fox, was in the game for the entire 90 minutes. She was instrumental in her team's 2-0 victory in the friendly game against Colombia. Pickett has also represented the US on the under-17 and under-23 national teams.
Born without a left hand and forearm, Pickett began playing soccer at the age of 5 under the guidance of her father, a former college soccer player. The talented athlete went on to play for Florida State University before being drafted by the Seattle Reign FC in 2016. Pickett has since played for several other National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) teams and is currently the defender for the 2022 NWSL Champions — the North Carolina Courage.
Pickett gained nationwide attention in 2019 after a photo of her fist-bumping the then two-year-old Joseph Tidd went viral on social media. Like Pickett, Tidd was also born without his left forearm and hand. The soccer player has since used the unexpected fame to encourage youngsters with limb differences to strive for lofty goals. Pickett says, "Don't let anyone tell you that you are not good enough because you are able no matter what."
In 2020, the athlete worked with Nike to develop laceless soccer cleats. "Honestly, my first reaction when I saw the Phantom GT FlyEase was relief," Pickett said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "I thought about my younger self and what it would have meant for me if something like this existed when I was growing up. I feel like this boot represents me and anybody else who is unique. FlyEase is very easy for anybody to put on quickly, which I love."
Pickett's debut USWNT game against Colombia was the final warm-up before the CONCACAF W Championships. The championships — won by the USWNT — served as the qualifying tournament for the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the 2024 Olympic tournament in Paris. Pickett will not be part of the team because the roster is limited to 23 players as opposed to the 26 that play in exhibition matches. But that does not matter to the 28-year-old, who is still reliving the surreal moment when she entered the field.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Pickett said, "I saw the crowd and everyone chanting 'US,' and I just knew that my biggest dream just came true. I think it was so cool to see my parents in the stands and just all the little kids screaming your name and things like that. And honestly, it's the best feeling I've ever had in my entire life."
Resources: theguardian.com, USAtoday.com, CNN.com, ESPN.com, US