The six head coaches in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Softball tournament gathered for the pre-tournament press conference today at Fukushima Azuma Stadium, including Laing Harrow (Australia), Mark Smith (Canada), Federico Pizzolini (Italy), Reika Utsugi (Japan), Carlos Bernaldez (Mexico) and Ken Eriksen (USA).
With only six teams in the Tokyo 2020 tournament, teams and players are bracing for the highest-level Olympic softball tournament ever.
USA Softball’s Eriksen said, “This will be the toughest Olympics because the teams are so together talent-wise, more so than ever before. The [softball] world has grown up, and that’s what everyone wanted when we first started in 1996. This tournament will be a really, really tough tournament.”
Opening Day Starters
Asked about their opening-day starting pitchers, the head coaches almost simultaneously reacted with “no comment”, which generated laughs among the more than 50 journalists in the room.
Italy’s Pizzolini, however, did not hold back: “We’re going with our best pitcher, even against USA, which is one of the main contenders. Our pitcher tomorrow will be Gretta Cecchetti.”
Opening the Games in Fukushima
Japan’s Utsugi said: “When I came first to Japan, I joined the softball association in Fukushima Prefecture, so it’s almost like my second home. So when the earthquake happened I was really devastated for it because I have a personal connection with Fukushima.”
Australia’s Harrow said: “Obviously, being here in Fukushima is a privilege and we’re looking forward for the competition tomorrow.”
USA’s Eriksen said: “We’re so fortunate to be here. I think every player has been dreaming about this their whole lives. The only regret is that the people in Fukushima are not able to tell the story of resilience. But I think everybody here respect that. We want to put a big show on in the city of Fukushima.”
A Games with no fans
Canada’s Smith said: “We’re grateful to be here. I would love to have the stadium full of people. But it’s not going to change the love and the intensity that our team’s going to display.”
Mexico’s Olympic Softball Historic Debut
Bernaldez said he’s advising his players to enjoy the moment: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You don’t have this opportunity very often. So my advice is just go out and play the way you know.”