OKLAHOMA CITY – The hopes and dreams of millions of softball athletes across the globe have been answered today as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted today to approve the addition of five new sports to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games the Amateur Softball Association (ASA)/USA Softball announced today. The decision, which comes after the IOC met in Rio de Janeiro, was made possible after the groundbreaking Olympic Agenda 2020, which provides flexibility for the future of the Olympic Movement to encourage innovation in the Olympic program. In addition to softball/baseball, other sports that will be added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing.
“What a truly great day for the sports of softball and baseball,” said ASA/USA Softball Executive Director Craig Cress. “For softball and baseball to be added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games program is a dream come true for many athletes across the world. USA Softball is proud to be the National Governing Body for the sport of softball and will continue to work diligently every day to promote our great sport of softball on the world stage.”
Softball and baseball’s global reach, loyal fan-base and positioning across many of the biggest sports markets, including Japan, offers a unique opportunity to further spread and elevate the Olympic brand. The decision today further highlights the growing global appeal of the two sports, particularly among young people and women. In Japan, softball/baseball have remained atop the landscape and a central part of the culture for more than 70 years. Other factors considered in the sports package include the impact on gender equality, the youth appeal of the sports and the legacy value of adding them to the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Softball spent four “quads” as an Olympic sport debuting in the 1996 Atlanta Games with the final Olympic softball competitions taking place in Beijing in 2008. Softball and baseball were ousted from the 2012 Olympics following a vote from the IOC in 2005 in which softball, needing a simple majority of votes (53), received just 52. Despite its exclusion from the Olympics for the past eight years, international softball has become increasingly competitive as a record 30 nations competed in last month’s 2016 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Women’s World Championship in Surrey, B.C., Canada and a record-breaking 12 nations competed at the World Cup of Softball XI in Oklahoma City, Okla. This was also highly showcased during the USA vs Japan All-Star Series in Tokyo and Sendai, Japan, where members of the USA Softball Women’s National Team squared off against Japan in a three-game series. A record-breaking 31,448 fans attended Stage One of the series at the Tokyo Dome, while an additional 3,000 fans attended the final two stages at Shellcom Sendai.
“Thank you to the IOC and the WBSC for this tremendous honor for not only our sport, but our athletes and the millions of young girls who dream of one day being an Olympian,” said USA Softball Women’s National Team athlete Janie Takeda (Placentia, Calif.). “This means so much to not only our USA Softball Women’s National Team program, but to millions of girls across the world. Even if I’m not there, knowing that softball athletes will get to compete on the highest stage against the best competition in the world is amazing.”
In four Olympic Games appearances, the USA Softball Women’s National Team claimed three Gold Medals and one Silver Medal finish while setting numerous international records and are one of only two women’s sports involved in the Olympic movement to capture three-consecutive Gold Medals. In 2012, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Lisa Fernandez and the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team were honored for their accolades with induction into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Members of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team set 18 Olympic records in Athens. Among the team records set were the most hits (73), highest team batting average (.343) and highest slugging percentage (.559). Fernandez set the individual record for batting average with .545 while Crystl Bustos’ 10 RBI and five home runs were also records.
This decision comes just 10 days after the USA Softball Women’s National Team claimed their first WBSC Women’s World Championship title since 2010 after defeating Japan 7-3 in the Gold Medal finale. As a team, the U.S. finished the 2016 WBSC Women’s World Championship with a .436 team batting average, 19 home runs, 80 RBI and outscored opponents 83-10. The pitching staff was lights out, allowing just eight earned runs for a 1.19 ERA.
For more information on the USA Softball National Teams, visit www.ASAUSASoftball.com.
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