Japan looks to defend 2008 Olympic softball gold medal as sport returns at Tokyo 2020

Japan looks to defend 2008 Olympic softball gold medal as sport returns at Tokyo 2020
Head coach Utsugi and 2008 Olympic stars Ueno, Yamada are ready to open the Games.

Japan enters the Olympic softball tournament as the defending gold medallists and No. 2 in WBSC Softball World Rankings. The team has had to wait 13 years for the chance to defend the gold medal won at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Head coach Reika Utsugi is now focused on opening the tournament against Australia at Fukushima Azuma Stadium on Wednesday, 21 July, at 9 am local time, in the very first official competition of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

"I want to show the soul of our softball," Utsugi said through an interpreter. As a Japanese citizen, I want to show my feelings for Fukushima."

Star pitcher Yukiko Ueno will celebrate her 39th birthday just one day after the opener against Australia. She was the 2008 gold medal hero, delivering as many as 600 pitches across the semifinal against Australia and gold medal game versus USA.

"I may not be able to do the same performance," commented Ueno. "Still, I want to give my best performance."

The Beijing Olympics were a long time ago. In sports, 13 years represent almost an era.
"I have a lot of things now," said Ueno, "so my mentality is different from 13 years ago."

Eri Yamada was also in Beijing. The 38-year old slugger, who looks up to baseball great Ichiro Suzuki, is happy to have another chance to compete in the Olympics.

"I have been able to continue my competitive life with the support of many people."

And now she wants to shine for the head coach: "I want to make Utsugi the winning coach of the Olympics. I want to express my gratitude through this result."

You might also be interested in:
- WBSC interviews Ueno, Yamada during Softball World Cup 2018
- Olympic softball preview

Tokyo 2020 – Olympic Softball