"I've been on this team for that long so I think that it was easy to just get back into it," says Megan Rapinoe after she ACL injury

By Caitlin Keating
Updated August 09, 2016 05:15 PM
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Credit: Courtesy Glaceau

Although soccer star Megan Rapinoe is slower on the soccer field after tearing her ACL, the midfielder hasn’t lost any momentum.

Just one year after her injury at a training session in Hawaii, the 31-year-old tells PEOPLE that it “means the world to me” to be a part of U.S. women’s soccer team.”

“It’s always an honor to make the team and even to be considered for such a huge tournament,” she says. “If there’s one thing this team doesn’t lack, it’s competitiveness and a desire to win. No matter if we come off a win or come off a loss, it seems like we don’t really care. We’re always motivated to win.”

Rapinoe and her teammates will face Colombia in its final first round at the Summer Olympics on Tuesday.

“We’re Team USA and we’re fighting to win gold in Rio,” says Rapinoe who previously won gold at the 2012 London Olympics. “Of course it’s always in our fight.”

For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.

The champion has continued to fight off the field as well.

In 2012, she came out as gay publicly, telling OUT Magazine, “I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out,” she says. “I feel like everyone is really craving people to come out. People want – they need – to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A.”

More recently, Rapinoe, Carli Llyod, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo filed a federal labor complaint against U.S. Soccer, claiming they’re paid just 40 percent as much as the men’s team players.

Road to Rio: The U.S. Soccer Team Has a Secret Yogi Crew

“I’m proud to be on a team that is fighting for this, is willing to stand out, willing to stand up on a platform and willing to fight for equality,” she says, “and fight for what we know is right and have a very strong feminist view on what this is. It’s pretty special to be apart of that.”

She adds: “I can tell that it’s going to be a historical time in the world’s history and in our country’s history.”

The leading goal-scorer has also partnered with vitaminwater as the brand’s official U.S. Olympic athlete to launch the “be a tryathlete” program.

“The whole idea of the campaign is to be a try-athelete,” she says. “To get out there and just do it, have fun and try new things.”

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.org. The Rio Olympics begin Friday on NBC.

Reporting by REBECCA SLOANE