Softball makes a comeback at Tokyo Olympics

Softball was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic then removed from the programme for the 2012 and 2016 Games but was added, along with baseball, for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

USA's national softball player Janie Reed. Tokyo Olympics sees the return of softball. Picture: @USASoftball/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - Softball made a comeback to the Summer Olympics on Wednesday at the Fukushima Azuma Stadium in Japan 13 years after it was last played at the Games.

Softball was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics but then removed from the programme for the 2012 and 2016 Games. It was then added, along with baseball, for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

After years, the top-ranked US Olympic softball team will make its fifth Olympic appearance alongside second-ranked Japan, third-ranked Canada, fifth-ranked Mexico, eighth-ranked Australia, and ninth-ranked Italy as the six countries competing in the 17-game competition. Canada has yet to medal, while Mexico is making its Olympic softball debut.

The host's Japan are the defending gold medallists after upsetting the United States in the final in Beijing 13 years ago.

Five players who participated in that final – Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott for the US and Ueno Yukiko, Mine Yukiyo and Yamada Eri for Japan - are part of the teams representing their nations at the Games.

The Olympic competition will begin with an opening round-robin where each country will go head-to-head from 21-26 July, with the top four nations in the final standings advancing to the medal rounds on 27 July.

In the medal rounds, the top two countries will compete for the highly anticipated gold medal, while the third and fourth place squads will battle for bronze.

Japan took the field first and played Australia in the opener, with the home team winning 8-1. Team USA beat Italy 2-0 in their match.

With only two teams advancing out of pool play and straight into the gold medal game, a lot is at stake.

The official Tokyo Olympics ceremony will be on Friday 23 July.

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