AP National Writer
Abby Wambach, whose thunderous header in the final seconds of the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals led the U.S. to an improbable victory and sparked a nationwide frenzy rarely seen for women’s sports, has been voted the 2011 Female Athlete of the Year.
The 31-year-old forward won the award handily, receiving 65 of the 214 votes cast by members of The Associated Press. Teammate Hope Solo (38 votes) was a distant second and UConn basketball player Maya Moore (35) was third.
Wambach is the first individual soccer player — man or woman — to win one of the AP’s annual athlete awards, which began in 1931. The U.S. women’s team won in 1999, when their World Cup triumph at the Rose Bowl transfixed the nation.
Wambach now has 13 goals in three World Cup appearances, most by any American and third on the all-time scoring list.