The Aussie Spirit may have headed to Tokyo last month but the Australian Olympic Committee announced the 15-member Olympic Softball Team for Tokyo on Thursday.
The Australian Softball side has had the word ‘first’ attached to it ahead of the Olympics. It was the first overseas team to arrive in Japan and it will kick start the competition on 21 July against the Japanese National Team in Fukushima.
The side has been trimmed down from 23 to 15, with three additional team members named as travelling reserves. Unfortunately, this spells heartbreak for five athletes who will return to Australia in the coming days.
39-year-old Stacey Porter is the only member of the 15-member team to have competed at an Olympics winning silver in Athens 2004 and bronze in Beijing 2008. Naturally, she has been named captain and looks to lead the Australians to a fifth Olympic medal.
As the team leader Porter has noticed the team has become more balanced in their time together in Japan.
“Three times is nice to hear officially for the first time, it’s been a long time between those years, it’s been a long journey for this group to head into Tokyo in just under a month.
“We’re as close as we’ve ever been to go and compete on the diamond at an Olympic Games, so that’s a good feeling.
“Balance is a good word for our team, it’s always good to have that bit of youthful enthusiasm, those girls have always held their own and have done their job to make the team today.
“They’ll bring their energy and we’ll bring ours as well and try and keep a level-head if anything, so I think it’s a great balance. We all play a role in the team and I think that will work really well on the diamond.”
The last time softball was at the Olympics, 30-year-old Kaia Parnaby was just 18-years-old, younger than any member selected in the team for Tokyo this year. Parnaby believes the selection news still hasn’t sunk in.
“It’s surreal, going from a 12-year-old watching the Olympics, to getting the chance to actually compete in the Olympics it’s something that I only ever dreamed of,” Parnaby said.
“Waking up this morning, my nerves were running through my whole body, my heart rate couldn’t get below 100 as soon as my name got called to go in the selection meeting.
“The thrill of hearing your coach say ‘congratulations, you’re going to an Olympic Games’ – I’m still getting caught up in the emotions, it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
the 30-year-old is confident the side is prepared after training together in Japan for the past month.
“Being around our teammates all the time, we have this bond that no one else shares with us, we have a camaraderie that brings us closer. I think the closeness of our group has helped us get through.
“We’ve been here for a month, that’s a long time to spend with just each other, but we’ve done such a good job in knowing when our teammates need time to chill by ourselves or when we need to be with each other and soak up the moment – we’re preparing for an Olympic Games.”
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Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman welcomed the selection news and praised the conduct of the team in Japan.
“This is a fantastic day for these 15 players and softball in Australia,” Mr Chesterman said.
“This is a dream 13 years in the making, to make this Australian Olympic Team as softball makes its Olympic return for the first time since Beijing in 2008.
“Congratulations to all the players, coaches, families, teammates, friends, supporters and everyone at Softball Australia who have helped achieve this incredible Olympic milestone today.
“This team has shown enormous grit and drive to not only qualify for the Games but to be as ready as they can be come July.
“Without access to international competition in Australia, the players have been training and competing in Japan under strict protocols to make sure they can be ready to step onto the Olympic arena in Fukushima. It has taken an incredible commitment from each and every one of them.
“With the potential for local crowds and Japan’s enthusiasm for softball, I’m sure these players will enjoy a fantastic atmosphere in Japan and will have millions of Australians cheering them on from back home.
“I also want to pay particular tribute to Stacey – to make a single Olympics is a special achievement, but to make your third Games after staying at the top echelon of your sport for decades is a remarkable achievement.”
Laing Harrow provided his perspective as coach on the growth of the side on and off the diamond over this year.
“After a tough few weeks in Japan, I’m excited about the potential of our final team selected for Tokyo,” said Harrow.
“Arriving in Ota City early for our final selection camp has given us the best possible chance to prepare for the sport’s return to the Olympics and I’m really pleased with how the players have been performing both on and off the diamond, and under difficult conditions.
“The Japanese people here in Ota have been very welcoming, and we can’t wait to repay their hospitality by officially opening Olympic competition against Japan.”
Australian Softball Team
|Stacey Porter||3rd (2004, 2008)|
The Softball competition will run from 21 -27 July at venues around Japan.