Watch Yukiko Ueno’s perfect game at Athens 2004 Olympic Games, 16 years ago today

Watch Yukiko Ueno’s perfect game at Athens 2004 Olympic Games, 16 years ago today
Ueno’s masterpiece, 16 years ago today, is the only seven-inning perfect game in the history of the Olympic Games.

On 20 August 2004, the Japan women’s softball national team faced China in the last game of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Preliminary Round, a win-or-go-home game for the Japanese side. Head coach Taeko Utsugi trusted the ball to a 22-year-old Yukiko Ueno to pitch the crucial game, and the right hander responded with the greatest single game pitching performance in the history of Olympic softball.

Thanks to the Olympic Channel, today we can relive the historic match played at the Athens 2004 Olympic Softball Stadium.

After an irregular round robin, Japan - with a 3:3 win:loss record - faced elimination in the last game of pool play against China. Ueno had lost her first two starts: 4-2 against Australia in the opening day of the softball competition; and a 1-0, 8-inning loss to Canada (in spite of a complete-game, 1-hit, 9-strikeout performance). On 19 August, she earned her first Olympic win in relief, in a 1-0 victory over Italy.

With the playoff to play in the bronze medal game at stake, Ueno started against China and was dominant since the first throw. She mixed the speed of her pitches, combining a powerful drop ball with a nasty change up to keep all Chinese hitters guessing and off balance the whole game.

In the third inning, Chinese first baseman Xiaoyan Wang hit a line drive to right field, directly to Yumi Iwabuchi’s waiting glove. It was the only hard-hit ball Ueno gave up in the match. She struck out 9 opponents and forced 10 grounders.

Ueno’s historic performance sent Japan to the playoffs. Two days later, she pitched eight shut out innings against the same Chinese lineup, in a 1-0 win for Japan in the playoff for the bronze medal game, which secured a medal for her team. In the bronze medal game (the winner going through to the final and the the loser winning a bronze medal) Ueno would watch from the dugout how Australia beat Japan in a 3-0 decision, with Juri Takayama taking over the pitching duties.

Ueno’s performance against China is the first and only seven-inning perfect game in the history of Olympic softball. Four years later, in Beijing 2008, US lefty Monica Abbot also retired all the batters she faced against the Netherlands, but the game lasted only five innings, due to the run ahead rule (USA won 8-0). Both hurlers are expected to participate in softball’s historic Olympic return at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

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