Venezuelan softball legend, Olympian Maria Soto: “Today we’re all on the same team, wearing the same uniform. #StayStrong”

Venezuelan softball legend, Olympian Maria Soto: “Today we’re all on the same team, wearing the same uniform. #StayStrong”
Soto, who played for the Venezuelan National Softball Team for 18 years and represented her country in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, has joined the IOC’s #StayStrong campaign.

Maria Soto, one of the chairs of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Athlete Commission, has been a key part of the world governing body in recent years taking the voice of the athletes to the WBSC decision-making process. In these trying days of uncertainty, the Venezuelan 41-year-old sent a strong message to the athletes and the world of sport.

The 2008 Olympian sent a message to all sports fans to #StayHealthy, StayStrong, and #StayActive, as inspired by the International Olympic Committee’s #StayStrong campaign, which features 100% athlete-generated content from around the world – showing how athletes connect with people during this uncertain time and serve as sources of inspiration and hope.

“In the beginning, I felt confused about what was going on in the world with the coronavirus,” said Soto from her home in Venezuela. “I miss watching the softball fields full of athletes.  

“In many cases, athletes have been role models. And this situation must not be an exception. We must be inspirational, instill confidence and enthusiasm, and the will to come out of this situation stronger than ever. To show that we’re athletes in the broadest sense, from every point of view, and that our path as a competitor will help us to face this situation.

“As athletes throughout our career, we always get the support of our family and friends. They’ve seen us as heroes and heroines. Today we must provide that support for them, and help them to stay strong in these trying times. Today we’re all on the same team, wearing the same uniform."

As the world honours the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, remaining active during the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown is requiring some creativity.

“I try to do whatever can be done in my house. I’m doing some exercise, mens sana in corpore sano (‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’). But not as much as I would like.”

Soto had a long and successful career as an international softball athlete. She played for the Venezuelan National Team for 18 years, representing her country in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. She was the flag bearer for Venezuela at the opening ceremony. She also played in three Pan American Games (silver medal in Rio 2007), and six WBSC World Championships. Last year, she retired from the National Team after trying to lead Venezuela to Tokyo 2020 qualification at the WBSC Softball Americas Qualifier. 

As a flag bearer for Venezuela at the Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony, she understood and supported the difficult decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games.

“It was the right decision to postpone the Olympic Games to give all the athletes, qualified or looking for the qualification, the same opportunity. Besides, you cannot achieve your highest level at the Olympic Games without health, training, preparation and previous competition. So I totally agree with the decision made, understanding that this will be just another challenge for the athletes around the world.”

She also had some words for her fellow athletes from Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico and USA national softball teams, who were training to fulfil their Olympic dreams.

“Enjoy every moment of the process, in spite of this pause. I’m sure you will give us the best spectacle in Tokyo. My respect and admiration for you has grown even more, because I know how all of you are facing this challenge.”