Japanese catcher Yukiyo Mine keeps focus on second Olympic softball gold medal

Japanese catcher Yukiyo Mine keeps focus on second Olympic softball gold medal
Mine, first from the right in photo, came out of retirement to pursue her second Olympic gold medal.

It’s the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games softball gold medal game, and Japan is just seconds away to make history. With a runner on first and two outs, Caitlin Lowe steps on the plate for USA. Yukiyo Mine sits behind the plate, looks at her battery mate and gives her the signal. She has done it 412 times in the last two days. Yukiko Ueno fires a drop on the outside corner, Lowe grounds out to third base. Japan’s Women’s National Softball Team has won the Olympic gold medal for the first time in history.

As a 20-year-old catcher, Mine was behind the plate in Ueno’s historic, two-day, 413-pitching effort to guide Japan to the gold medal. Now, 13 years later, she is a part of the Japan National Team preliminary roster, aiming to gain back-to-back Olympic gold medals at this summer's Tokyo Games.

"I strongly felt that returning to the Olympics again was a challenge that can only be done now," Mine told Nagoya TV

In 2014, Mine initially retired after winning two consecutive WBSC Women’s Softball World Championships (2012 and 2014).

"I have won a gold medal at the Olympics and two gold medals at the World Championships, so I thought it was enough for my softball career," she said.

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However, she decided to come out of retirement after the August 2016 announcement that softball would be returning to the Olympics for the Tokyo 2020 Games. "I saw the news that softball will be reinstated at the Tokyo Olympics, so I can find my way back to the Olympics! I was so shaken... so I decided to return."

Mine though was not part of the Japanese team that finished with the silver medal in the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship 2018 in Chiba, Japan. Haruka Agatsuma was the starting catcher on the Japanese team, with 18-year-old Saori Yamauchi serving as her backup.

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"Young catchers, experienced catchers, and many other players have been selected…I thought it would be difficult for me to make the national team again," admitted Mine, who played perfect defence in Beijing, with a 33.33% caught-stealing percentage.

Nonetheless, after the 2020 Japan Softball League, the Toyota Red Terriers backstop was included on Japan’s preliminary roster for the Tokyo Olympics. With three catchers for (most likely) two spots on the roster, Mine will compete with Agatsuma and Nayu Kiyohara to be part of the Olympics.

"I was waiting for the opportunity. I was ready! Winning a gold medal is a great opportunity for a lot of people to understand the beauty of softball, so I want to do my best to win."

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