Olympic Rewind Series - Atlanta 1996: China vs. USA in first-ever softball gold medal game

Olympic Rewind Series - Atlanta 1996: China vs. USA in first-ever softball gold medal game
23/07/2020
Nearly 9,000 fans filled the Columbus' Golden Park Stadium in 1996 to witness the Olympic Softball final, one of the most historic softball games of all times.

On 30 July 1996 in Atlanta and after eight days of Olympic competition, China and USA met in softball's first-ever Olympic Gold Medal Game in front of a full house. China beat Australia in the Bronze Medal Game, 4-2, to make it to the final, leaving Australia with the first bronze medal in the sport.

USA finished the round-robin on top of the standings (8-1), followed by China (5-2), Australia (5-2) and Japan (5-2). All of them advanced to the playoffs. Out of medal contention, Canada (3-4), Chinese Taipei (2-5), Netherlands (1-6) and Puerto Rico (1-6) completed the standings.

The Gold Medal Game was the third meeting in three days between China and USA. The previous two matches ended with USA victories: a come-from-behind 3-2 decision to close the Opening Round; and a 10-inning, 1-0 thriller in the first semifinal.

For the final match, USA started three of the best softball pitchers in the world, at the time: Lisa Fernandez started at third base, Michele Smith was the designated hitter and Michele Granger was the starting pitcher. Fernandez and Smith had pitched complete games against the Chinese side the previous two days.

Granger, who is remembered as the player who delivered softball's first pitch at the Olympics, recorded one win and no losses in the Opening Round, with a 1.36 ERA. She pitched 10.1 innings in two games (against Puerto Rico and Canada), giving up 7 hits, 2 runs and 4 walks, with 17 Ks.

For China, Yaju Liu got into the circle to open the game. The Chinese right-hander, who tossed 6 shutout innings in the semi final against USA the day before, started the game with a 0.40 ERA in 17.1 innings of work, allowing 15 hits, 1 earned run and 2 walks, while getting 13 strikeouts.

The game included good pitching, clutch hitting and some controversy, with two great teams battling to put their names in the record books as the sport’s first Olympic gold-medal winner.

A total of 120 female athletes competed in the Atlanta 1996 Olympic softball event, a nine-day tournament held from 21-30 July 1996, with a rest day on 28 July. “With sold-out sessions each day, more than 120,000 spectators warmly welcomed softball to the programme of the Olympic Games,” summarized the Atlanta 1996 Official Report. 

Tomorrow, the Olympic Rewind series will jump to Sydney 2000 Games, to showcase an epic Opening Round contest between the New Zealand and Canada National Softball Teams.

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