The word echoes over and over again. “Congratulations!” As an 18-year-old high school graduate, Mallory Pugh exists in that exciting time of life where everyone is congratulating you for making it through high school, and wishing you luck as you’re gearing up for college. But while her friends are preparing to start the college lifestyle, Mal, as everyone calls her, has one more stop before she kicks off her college career. This UCLA Soccer Commit has to become an Olympian before she officially becomes a Bruin. Only 2 months after graduating high school, Mal is set out to make history.

At 18, this forward is the second youngest player the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) has taken to the Olympics. But no one who knows her is surprised by this epic accomplishment; Mal seems to be destined for greatness with nothing really slowing her down. When she was 16 she was competing in the Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada. And just last December, Mal was not only the leading scorer but also a captain of the U-20 team that won the CONCACAF World Championship. Lindsey Horan, Mallory’s teammate, expressed her amazement of her teammate's above average skill set and rock solid nerves to The Denver Post:

“It really amazes me, because when I first got called up when I was 18, I was starstruck the whole time and nervous before every game. Mal stepped in and in her first game she gets a goal. That’s amazing in itself, but I see it day in and day out. She doesn’t play like an 18-year-old. She doesn’t let anything get in her head, which is really cool.”

You better believe her teammate's amazement is only going to grow. As I write this, Mallory is in Rio, doing what she loves alongside soccer greats such as Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd and Horan… Just to name a few. In fact, on August 3rd the USWNT opened with their first 2016 Olympic match with a 2-0 win against New Zealand. Even more impressive Mallory isn’t just there just to put in her time for next year’s team, she experienced her first Olympic match from the starting lineup.

Besides just a cool story about a young athlete who is on her way to greatness, two big lessons come to mind when I think of Mallory Pugh: hard work and living your dream. Mal, by just doing what she loves is inspiring young girls, athletes and people in general everywhere. As a sports fanatic and huge soccer fan myself, I cannot wait to see what she does in Rio. But in my opinion, she’s already made her country proud. None of what she’s doing happened by just sitting around. Mallory has had to work her butt off to get where she is. Just think about it. She’s only 18 and she’s already living a life-long dream. So as you see number 2 darting across your TV screen this summer, just remember: hard work pays off, and age is but a number. You’re never too young to live your dreams.

Congratulations, Mallory. You’re already making us proud.

Lead Image Credit: US Soccer