Softball is back at the Olympics (for now) – and Canada aiming for a medal

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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to date with what’s happening at the Tokyo Olympics by signing up here.

A quick word before we start: from now until the closing ceremony on August 8, the Buzzer will be exclusively dedicated to the Tokyo Olympics. Seven days a week, you’ll get news, information and analysis on the Games’ biggest stories, plus tips on who and what to watch to help guide your TV and live viewing. For all of your non-Olympic sports news, including the latest from a busy NHL offseason, visit CBCSports.ca. Okay, let’s get to the Olympic news:

The games start tonight

We’re still three days away from the Opening Ceremony, but competition at the Tokyo Olympics begins at 8 p.m. ET with a women’s softball match between Australia and host Japan.

Canadian athletes will begin competing hours later, when the third-seeded women’s softball team face Mexico at 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Canada’s women’s soccer team begins their quest for a third consecutive Olympic medal when they face Japan at 6:30 a.m. ET. You can watch both of these competitions live on the CBC TV Network, CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app and CBC Sports Tokyo 2020 website.

Canada’s women’s soccer and softball teams are both strong contenders for medals that deserve a deeper dive. Since softball is the first to come out the door, let’s take a look at this team today and get back to the football team in tomorrow’s newsletter.

In this week’s episode of Team Canada today, Andi Petrillo tells you everything you need to know about Canada’s softball team coming out of a 13-year Olympic hiatus. 10:19

Softball is back (for now). And Canada is a competitor.

The sport made its Olympic debut at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, four years after baseball arrived in Barcelona. The Olympics now treat them as one sport (officially referred to as baseball / softball), with softball essentially being seen as the women’s version of baseball. There has never been a men’s softball tournament at the Olympics, nor women’s baseball – despite the fact that these things do exist and were played at the Pan Am Games.

Find live broadcasts, must-see videos, breaking news and more in a perfect Olympic Games package. Following Team Canada has never been easier or more exciting.

More from Tokyo 2020

After the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the IOC decided that baseball and softball would be removed from the list of permanent Olympic sports after the 2008 Games in Beijing. One of the factors was the lack of competitive balance in softball. The United States had won all three gold medals since the sport’s introduction, and in 2004 they beat their opponents 51-1. So, of course, the Americans lost to Japan in the gold medal game in Beijing.

Another reason given for the exclusion of softball and baseball from the Olympics was that the best baseball players in the world did not participate. The Summer Games are held during the Major League Baseball season, and the MLB has shown no interest in stopping for a few weeks NHL-style. But this reasoning does not apply to softball. Its top players, many of whom compete for colleges in America, are in fact competing in the Olympics, and many see it as the pinnacle of their careers.

Regardless, after losing their permanent status, baseball and softball were not played at the London 2012 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Games. But hosts are allowed to choose from a handful of optional sports, and Japan is strong in both softball and baseball, which is very popular there. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Paris, so softball and baseball will be dropped again for the 2024 Olympics. But they could make a comeback in 2028 in Los Angeles, the baseball / softball hotspot.

A few other things to know:

The pitchers are mean.

Although they share many common traits, softball and baseball are different sports with different rules. The most important thing you will notice (with the bigger yellow ball) is that softball pitchers spin the ball from below, not over it. It’s easier on the arm but doesn’t produce as much speed. The fastball of a good softball pitcher can reach 65 mph (about 105 km / h) on the radar, while that of the best baseball pitchers can reach 90 mph (145 km / h). But when you factor in the shorter distance between the plate and the pitcher’s rubber – 43 feet in softball, versus 60 ½ feet in baseball – the ball does come in just as quickly from the batter’s point of view.

Like their baseball counterparts, softball pitchers are able to perform all kinds of dirty moves on their courts using various grips that produce different spins and speeds. That’s another reason the pitchers you’ll see in the Olympic softball tournament can be just as tough to hit as a major league star like Jacob deGrom, two-time winner of Cy Young. What if you’re not trained to decipher their dark magic? Forget that. In a famous experiment in 2003, American star Jennie Finch’s evil mix of fastballs and changes proved untouchable for some of baseball’s greatest hitters of all time. Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols have all punched against her. Watch Pujols’ attempt to catch Finch’s heat here.

Canada has a good chance of winning its first Olympic softball medal.

Chances are we’ll see another gold medal game between the United States and Japan. They are ranked No.1 and No.2 respectively in the world, and they have faced each other in two of the four Olympic finals and each of the last seven World Cup title games. But the third-ranked Canadians should, at the very least, be in the race for a bronze medal. They’ve gotten closer before, placing fourth at the 2008 Olympics after losing their playoff game to eventual bronze medalist Australia. In addition, Canada has won bronze at three of the last five World Cups.

Some Canadian players to watch:

Danielle Lawrie (pitcher): The 2008 Olympian played at the University of Washington, where she recorded the fourth-most career strikeouts in NCAA Division I history and helped the Huskies win the national championship. in 2009. Lawrie already hit 20 batters in a seven innings game an all-time shy of the DI record. The 34-year-old from Langley, BC, is also the older sister of former Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie.

Victoria Hayward (thief): Another former Huskie (she and Lawrie missed each other by a year), Hayward became the youngest player on the Canadian softball team when she joined at age 16 in 2009. During her final year in Washington, she led the Conference Pac -12 in stolen goals (28) and placed fifth in batting average (.414) and goalscoring percentage (.513), which earned him All-America First Team honors. At the 2019 Canadian Regional Olympic Qualifying Tournament, she led all hitters in hits and interceptions.

Sara Groenewegen (pitcher): The 26-year-old from Surrey, BC is lucky to be alive. Three years ago, doctors gave her a 3% chance of surviving after a mysterious illness destroyed her body and sent her into an induced coma for 10 days. It turned out that Groenewegen, who has type 1 diabetes, contracted Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia. But she recovered and, a year later, put on a perfect match at the Pan Am Games in Peru, where Canada won silver behind the United States.

Learn more about the contact with Groenewegen’s death here and how the Canadian team prepared for their return to the Olympics here. Meet Lawrie and a few other Canadian players in this team video.

How the tournament works:

There are six teams: the United States, Japan, Canada (ranked 1, 2 and 3 respectively in the world), Mexico (5), Australia (8) and Italy (9). They are all played once in the round robin phase. The teams with the top two records will play for the gold medal on July 27 at 7 a.m. ET. The third and fourth placed teams compete for bronze earlier today at midnight ET.

Canada’s schedule:

  • Wednesday, July 21, 2 a.m.ET vs. Mexico
  • Wednesday, July 21, 8 p.m. ET vs. United States
  • Friday, July 23, 9 p.m. ET vs. Australia
  • Sunday, July 25, 1:30 a.m. ET vs Japan
  • Monday, July 26, 1:30 a.m.ET vs. Italy

What to watch tonight and tomorrow morning

As previously mentioned, the Canada vs. Mexico women’s softball game at 2 a.m. ET and the Canada vs. Japan women’s soccer game at 6:30 a.m. ET will both be broadcast live on the CBC television network and streamed live on CBC Gem. , the CBC Olympic Games App channel and CBC Sports Tokyo 2020 website.

These streaming platforms will also broadcast all other women’s soccer and softball games that take place Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in Canadian time zones. Here are the details on those:

soft ball

  • Australia vs. Japan – 8 p.m. ET
  • Italy v United States – 11 p.m. ET

Women’s football

  • Great Britain vs. Chile – 3:30 a.m.ET
  • China vs Brazil – 4 a.m.ET
  • Sweden vs United States – 4:30 a.m.ET
  • Zambia vs. Netherlands – 7 a.m. ET
  • Australia vs. Netherlands – 7:30 a.m.ET

You are aware. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.


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