Global Game Podcast: Kaleigh Rafter - Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games a celebration of ‘where we have taken’ softball and its exciting future ahead

Global Game Podcast: Kaleigh Rafter - Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games a celebration of ‘where we have taken’ softball and its exciting future ahead
18/12/2021
“We just wanted to bring softball back as competitively as we could so we can put our sport in the best position moving forward.”

Looking back on her second Olympic Games appearance at Tokyo 2020, Canadian catcher Kaleigh Rafter says it was not only a "business trip" to win gold but also a result of some long term thinking and work by softball stars across many teams, aimed at securing softball's Olympic future.

Speaking on the WBSC podcast The Global Game, Rafter, who helped Canada to a fourth-place finish at Beijing 2008 and an historic bronze medal in Tokyo, said many athletes "take a lot of pride" in having showcased the best of softball, not only at Tokyo 2020 but also at WBSC World Cups during the Olympic pause since 2008, to set up the sport for a potential long term spot on the Olympic programme.

“When we did have the opportunity to come back (to the Olympics) we just wanted to bring softball back as competitively as we could so we can put our sport in the best position moving forward and can we put on a show and make people realize this game is pretty awesome and is being played at the highest level and get a little momentum going forward. Obviously it’s out for 2024 but for 2028 and beyond, to maybe get it on the Olympic docket a little more securely so we can build on that momentum a little bit," Rafter said.

"That was our main goal, win or lose. I think we did that. I’m glad we came home with some hardware (for Canada) and yes, we fought some hard-fought battles but at the same time, I thought we did the game of softball justice, we thought we played it at a pretty high level. (There was) lots of great softball to celebrate about from a fans point of view".

Asked about the significance of the Tokyo Olympics for her and her generation, after 13 years of absence from the Olympics, Rafter, who was named Canada’s new head coach in October, said: “It was our time to celebrate where we have taken the game, and beyond even us as a group as Canadians. For example, Japan with Yukiko Ueno and Eri Yamada, who have been around their programme forever, Stacey Porter, Monica Abbott, all the people that have stuck it out through this period of time trying to really keep softball as competitive as we could and grow the game even though there wasn’t that Olympic Games to go to. That’s something a lot of us take a lot of pride in.”

“We’ve talked about it in those years, in 2014, 2016, at the World Championships,” the three time WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship medallist remembered. “‘How we can keep growing it, keep putting a good product on the field, keep people excited about it so we did have the opportunity to come back?”

Rafter has been linked with the Canadian Women’s National Softball team for 14 years. She made her debut in 2007 and wrapped up her international playing career after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where Canada earned its first Olympic softball medal.

Asked about her first steps in the role of the Softball Canada Women’s National Team coach, she recognised that it’s time to think in the future, aiming for another Olympic run, potentially for Los Angeles 2028.

“It’s going to be a time for development,” Rafter stated. “The next three years is going to be really important to go out and develop athletes the best we can to put us in a position to maybe make another Olympic run, hopefully in 2028".

You might also be interested in:
- Kaleigh Rafter named Softball Canada Women’s National Team head coach
- Jenn Salling to join Softball Canada National Team coaching staff
- Mark Smith, the head coach who led Softball Canada to its first Olympic medal, retires
- Canada wins country’s first-ever Olympic softball medal with bronze at Tokyo 2020
- With all eyes on Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Canada’s Jenn Salling is excited to show the world how 'awesome' softball is