21/07/2021 - 27/07/2021

 

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Softball Olympic Games 2020 - Official Payoff

"Representing your country at the Olympics is emotional, spiritual" - Maria Soto reflects on her Olympic memories on The Global Game

"Representing your country at the Olympics is emotional, spiritual" - Maria Soto reflects on her Olympic memories on The Global Game
05/07/2021
Soto was Venezuela’s flag bearer in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Maria Soto has spent her life on the softball field. Starting at age 15, she has shown her talent on diamonds around the world, from her native Valencia, in Carabobo, to her biggest moment and accomplishment as an athlete at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Just weeks away from softball's first pitch at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Soto acknowledges that becoming an Olympian is a life-changing experience. “Everything you’ve passed through in your life, why you grabbed a bat and a glove for the first time, it all emerges in this precise moment when you realise you go to the Olympics," remembers the former first base who hit .263 in Beijing 2008. "To represent your country at the Olympics doesn’t have material value, it’s all emotional, spiritual… it’s the sum of all the things you have been through in your life as an athlete.”

As one of the guests of the Spanish edition of The Global Game, the WBSC podcast, Soto speaks about her first steps onto the diamond, her long tenure as a Venezuela national team member, and the most precious moment in her sporting life: Being Venezuela’s flag bearer in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Soto, who currently is the President of the Venezuelan Softball Federation, a member of the WBSC Softball Board and co-chair of the WBSC Athletes Commission, had played in the national team for more than 20 years. “I was part of the Venezuelan team in every Olympic cycle in softball history, from Atlanta 96 to Beijing 2008, competing and trying the reach this dream. And thank God we made it,” she said.

Venezuela couldn’t qualify directly to the Olympics during the Women’s Softball World Championship 2006, where the top-five teams earned a spot in Beijing 2008. "But we had the opportunity to host the pre-Olympic tournament with one spot for the Americas teams. So the team made a promise: If we qualify for the Olympics, we’d make a tattoo of the Olympic rings.” The five rings are a demonstration of sisterhood and bond among that historic team, that also finished in fifth place at the Women’s Softball World Championship 2010 in Caracas.

In 2008, for the first time in Venezuela they made free elections to choose the flag bearer in the Olympics, and the Softball National Team was elected. “When we arrived to the Olympic Village we didn’t know who was going to be the flag bearer,” she remembers. “I was the captain, but we made a proposal to the Venezuelan Olympic Committee, to carry the flag by turns, five or six steps each player, but the IOC said no.”

So the team made an internal vote to select who was going to be the flag bearer, and the team decided that the captain of the team should do it. “It all happened the same day of the Opening Ceremony,” she said. “These images will last forever in me.”

Tokyo 2020 – Olympic Softball