Japan vs. Australia will be played today Tuesday from 7:00 pm (Peruvian time)
As delegations from participating countries continue to arrive, softball kicks off the Tokyo 2020 Olympics three days before the opening ceremony and Japan and its champions are ready.
“People have very high expectations of Japan and that puts tremendous pressure on us,” but “I’m ready,” said pitcher Yukiko Ueno, one of the stars of the host team, whose biggest obstacle in the search for the medal of gold will be the United States.
Back on the Olympic agenda with baseball after a 13-year absence, softball will be the first of the 33 sports present in these games to enter competition, when Japan faces Australia from 7:00 pm (Peruvian time) in Fukushima, 250 kilometers north of Tokyo. Italy-United States and Mexico-Canada will be the other two matches of the first day.
“The desire to win gold has made me work really hard,” added Ueno, 38, in an interview with the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC).
The last time softball was on the Olympic calendar, in Beijing 2008, the United States lost to Japan the gold medal it monopolized in Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.
“I want to believe in my players and do my best, with all my heart, to meet expectations,” said coach Reika Utsugi, who played for the Japanese teams that won silver in Sydney and bronze in Athens, announcing her 15 squads. .
The long wait was also extended by the covid-19 pandemic.
Yukiko Ueno, Yukiyo Mine and Eri Yamada are the survivors of the gold team that beat the United States 3-1 in the 2008 Beijing final. Ueno scored that victory.
Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott belonged to that American team, and now they are back on the job.
Ostermar, a 2004 gold winner and who came out of retirement to be an Olympian again, has a clear goal at 38 years old. “There is a great generation of female softball players who couldn’t compete in the Olympics … if I could help this group of younger athletes win a gold medal, then I had to,” she said on Olympic Channel .
The rivalry between the Japanese and the Americans has had new chapters outside the Olympic sphere.
United States defeated 7-6 a Japan in 10 innings in the final of the last Softball World Championship, in 2018, played on Japanese soil, in Chiba. Thus, it revalidated the 2016 title after the Japanese conquered those of 2012 and 2014.
“It was the confirmation that the United States is prepared for its highest heights,” manager Ken Eriksen told reporters upon being confirmed to lead the team in Tokyo-2020.
Always on the Olympic softball podium, Australia Aiming high with the leadership of Stacey Porter, silver medalist in Athens 2004 and bronze medalist in Beijing 2008. “I am excited by the potential of our team,” manager Laing Harrow commented in a WBSC note.
Canada, meanwhile, has experienced Olympic players Lauren Regula and Jennifer Salling, and Mexico has an ace in Dallas Escobedo.
Italy also seeks to shine as a tribute to Australian Enrico Obletter, manager who led the way to qualification, who died of covid-19 in February and was succeeded by Federico Pizzolini.
Softball and baseball return to the Olympics in the package of new sports included in Tokyo-2020 along with karate, surfing, sport climbing and skateboarding. They will disappear again in Paris 2024, but they would return in Los Angeles 2028. AFP