Softball has returned to the Olympics and Canada is aiming for a medal
Tonight is the beginning of the Games
The opening ceremony is still three days away, but the Tokyo Olympics begin with a women’s softball game between Australia and host Japan at 8 p.m. ET. When the No. 3-ranked women’s softball team takes against Mexico at 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canadian competitors will begin competing a few hours later. At 6:30 a.m. ET, Canada’s women’s soccer team takes on Japan in the first match in their quest for a third consecutive Olympic medal. Both events will be broadcast live on CBC TV, CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app, and the CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website.
Softball has returned
The sport made its Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996, four years after baseball entered the Games in Barcelona. Softball is essentially the women’s version of baseball, and the Olympics now classify them as one event (formally known as baseball/softball). Despite the fact that men’s softball and women’s baseball exist and have been played in the Pan Am Games, there has never been a men’s softball or women’s baseball event at the Olympics.
The 2004 Summer Olympics
Following the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) determined that baseball and softball will be dropped from the list of official Olympic sports following the 2008 Beijing Games. A lack of competitive balance in softball was one cause. Since the sport’s inception, the United States has won all three gold medals, outscoring its opponents 51-1 in 2004. As a result, the Americans went on to lose the gold medal game in Beijing against Japan.
The nasty pitchers
Softball and baseball are separate sports with different regulations, although sharing many similarities. Softball pitchers windmill the ball underhand, not overhand, which is the most noticeable difference (along with the bigger, yellow ball). This is gentler on the arm but doesn’t create as much velocity. On the radar gun, a competent softball pitcher’s fastball can reach 65 mph (105 km/h), whereas the finest baseball pitchers can reach 90 mph (145 km/h). When you consider the shorter distance between the plate and the pitcher’s rubber — 43 feet in softball vs. 6012 feet in baseball — the ball gets at the batter’s plate almost as rapidly.
Canada has a good chance of earning a medal in softball at the Olympics for the first time
There’s a good chance we’ll witness another gold-medal match between the United States and Japan. They’re the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 players, and they’ve faced in two of the four Olympic finals and each of the previous seven World Cup finals. The No. 3-ranked Canadians, on the other hand, should at the very least be in contention for a bronze medal. They’ve been close previously, finishing fourth in the 2008 Olympics after losing in the semifinals to eventual bronze medalist Australia. In addition, Canada has finished third in three of the last five World Cups.
Some Canadian players to watch:
Danielle Lawrie (pitcher) was a standout at the University of Washington, where she tallied up the fourth-most career strikeouts in NCAA Division I history and helped the Huskies win the national title in 2009. In a seven-inning game, Lawrie once struck out 20 hitters, one shy of the all-time D-I record. The 34-year-old is also the older sister of former Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C.
The competition is run as follows:
The United States, Japan, and Canada (ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 3 in the world, respectively), Mexico (5), Australia (8), and Italy (ranked No (9). In the round-robin stage, they all play each other once. On July 27, at 7 a.m. ET, the two teams with the best records compete for the gold medal. Earlier that day, at midnight ET, the third and fourth-place teams compete for bronze.