Olympic Rewind Series - Sydney 2000: Japan, USA play the most contested softball final in Olympic history

Olympic Rewind Series - Sydney 2000: Japan, USA play the most contested softball final in Olympic history
24/07/2020
In a collaboration between the WBSC and the Olympic Channel, fans are able to watch the Gold Medal Game of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the second time softball was featured in the Olympics, following the sport's debut at Atlanta 1996.

On Tuesday 26 September 2000, at 19:30 local time, Lisa Fernandez fired a 67 mph (108 km/h) bullet on the outside corner to open the Gold Medal Game in softball at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Japan's Haruka Saito took it for strike, leading off the most disputed Olympic softball final of all time. That day, a total of 8,923 fans paid for a ticket to enter Blacktown International Sportspark and watch the game in person.

Mariko Masubuchi, who had fanned 20 in 15 innings in the tournament, started for Japan. USA's lead-off hitter was Dot Richardson for a second consecutive gold medal game, also leading off in the final of the Atlanta 1996 Games.

Japan headed into the final undefeated, sweeping the seven-game Opening Round and winning the first semi-final against Australia, 1-0. Reika Utsugi, now head coach of the Japanese women’s softball national team, hit a game-winning solo home run in the top of the fourth inning to move her team into their first Olympic final in history. Utsugi would play a key role in the Gold Medal Game, too.

On the other hand, USA barely made it to the playoffs after the Opening Round, finishing in fourth place with a 4-3 record. The defending Olympic champions suffered three consecutive extra-inning losses, falling to Japan, China and Australia, and had faced elimination in the final two Opening Round Games against New Zealand and Italy. As the fourth-place finishers, USA beat China, 3-0, with a 3-run walk-off homer by Stacey Nuveman and advanced to the final with a 1-0 win over host Australia in the second semi-final (bronze medal game) thanks to a one-hit performance by Fernandez. This loss left Australia with their second consecutive Olympic bronze medal; and China in fourth place. Out of the playoffs, Italy (2-5), New Zealand (2-5), Cuba (1-6) and Canada (1-6) completed the standings.

The Gold Medal Game concluded another successful Olympic appearance for the sport of softball, where crowds of enthusiast fans followed the event from start to finish.

The official Sydney 2000 Olympics post-games report said: “In only its second appearance at an Olympic Games, softball again proved to be a worthy member of the Olympic Family. 

"The precision and speed of the game, combined with the sheer athleticism of the competitors and the tightly fought matches, made it one of the most exciting and heavily supported sports at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.”

Tomorrow's Olympic Rewind game, presented in collaboration with the Olympic Channel, will feature the 2004 Olympic Games Gold Medal Game between Australia and USA.

OLYMPIC REWIND - Softball

OLYMPIC REWIND - Baseball

  • 29/7 Barcelona 1992 - Opening Round: USA v Spain
  • 30/7 Barcelona 1992 - Gold Medal Game: Cuba v Chinese Taipei
  • 31/7 Atlanta 1996 - Opening Round: Italy v Korea
  • 01/8 Atlanta 1996 - Gold Medal Game: Cuba v Japan
  • 02/8 Sydney 2000 - Opening Round: Netherlands v Cuba
  • 03/8 Sydney 2000 - Gold Medal Game: Cuba v USA
  • 04/8 Athens 2004 - Semi Final: Australia v Japan