FRISCO – As the 2016 Rio Olympics commence, with soccer as one of the marquee events, you don’t have to venture away from Toyota Stadium to find Olympiad lore.
A trio of Mauro Rosales, Chris Seitz and Maynor Figueroa have attended the games before as athletes of their respective countries of Argentina, the United States and Honduras. Rosales won a gold medal with Argentina in Greece in 2004 while Seitz competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the United States, the last time the US qualified for the games. Figueroa competed in London in 2012, where his Honduras squad advanced to the knockout round before falling to Brazil. He was one of three over-aged players called in to compete.
Rosales might be most notably known for this feat, as it was Argentina’s first gold medal in soccer in fifty years and one of just two golds the country earned that summer.
“Any time that you have the chance to represent your country,” Rosales said, “especially in Argentina, it's obviously very difficult to make the team because you have a lot of good players around the world and having the chance to participate in Greece in 2004 and become a gold medal-winner, it was a huge experience.”
Rosales started each of Argentina’s six games, going the full-90 in four of them, including the semifinal and final. In addition to scoring a goal, he also notched two assists in the team’s first game –– the exact start he hoped his team would have fresh off a loss to Brazil in the Copa America Final earlier that summer.
“Having two assists and a goal,” Rosales said, “it was a dream start to the tournament so from there we went step-by-step to beat everyone and not even get goals against so we had a good time.
Twelve years later, with a gold medal under his belt, Rosales is thankful for the place he holds in his national team’s prolific history.
“It was part of my experience in the national team and obviously you grow as a person and your career changes automatically,” he said. “It was huge.”
Seitz, who started each of the US National Team’s seven games leading up to the tournament before being replaced as the first-choice goalkeeper by Brad Guzan, still vividly remembers his experience in 2008 –– especially the opening ceremonies.
“You go to the opening ceremonies and you walk out with Team USA and it's not just track and field hanging out with track and field and swimmers hanging out with swimmers,” Seitz said, “it's literally everyone intertwined.
The former US Men's National Team player is aware of the success the United States has historically had at the Olympic games –– accumulating the most all-time gold medals by almost 600 –– and it’s something that overwhelmed him with pride.
“You know, for Americans in general, the Olympics are kind of the pinnacle of sports and maybe not so much for soccer, but in terms of overall sports, it's definitely the top so it was a massive, massive honor to represent the US and kind of soak it all in,” he said.
Seitz’ US team didn’t make out of the group stage but he still found the experience like no other. He was with Real Salt Lake at the time, and getting to discuss commonalities with fellow competitors –– especially those prominent in American sports –– was one of the experiences he recounts vividly.
"It was really cool,” Seitz said. “I was talking to Carlos Boozer about Salt Lake and the area, you know, something like that where you both have a shared interest and it was pretty cool. Those guys are humble and fun to talk to, and surprisingly a lot of them are big fans of soccer so it's nice."
“People are big fans of everyone and trying to pick their brains on what they went through to get there and you get to meet a lot of really humble and nice people throughout it all.”
Ultimately, however, Seitz saw the Olympic experience as a chance to share a once-in-a-lifetime moment with those who he cared most for.
"It's definitely a notch in the cap or however you want to look at it but for me it's going to go more towards being a life-altering experience,” Seitz said.
“My whole family got to come out and it was something we could all share together. They've all been a big part of why I'm here and for them to be able to go out there and enjoy it with me was really special."
And if you’re wondering, Mauro Rosales keeps his gold medal in his home.