Ten NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) representatives have been named by the Australian Olympic Committee in the 15-strong Olympic Softball Team for Tokyo.
As the sport makes its return for the first Games since Beijing 2008, the ‘Aussie Spirit’ will consist of nine NSWIS scholarship athletes and an additional training agreement athlete.
Dual Olympic medallist Stacey Porter (NSWIS) will captain the team, with the 39-year-old the only team member to have competed at an Olympics.
Captain and proud Kamilaroi woman, Porter has a wealth of experience, from Olympic bronze and silver medals, to playing professionally in Japan over her 20-year playing career.
“Three times is nice to hear officially for the first time, it’s been a long time between those years, it’s been a long journey for this group to head into Tokyo in just under a month,” Porter said.
“We’re as close as we’ve ever been to go and compete on the diamond at an Olympic Games, so that’s a good feeling.
“Balance is a good word for our team, it’s always good to have that bit of youthful enthusiasm, those girls have always held their own and have done their job to make the team today.
“They’ll bring their energy and we’ll bring ours as well and try and keep a level-head if anything, so I think it’s a great balance. We all play a role in the team and I think that will work really well on the diamond.”
30-year-old Kaia Parnaby (NSWIS) said being able to fulfil her Olympic dream that was sparked being in the stadium for the Opening Ceremony of Sydney 2000 was an emotional journey.
“It’s surreal, going from a 12-year-old watching the Olympics, to getting the chance to actually compete in the Olympics it’s something that I only ever dreamed of,” Parnaby said.
“Waking up this morning, my nerves were running through my whole body, my heart rate couldn’t get below 100 as soon as my name got called to go in the selection meeting. The thrill of hearing your coach say ‘congratulations, you’re going to an Olympic Games’ – I’m still getting caught up in the emotions, it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Parnaby said living, training and competing in Japan the last month has the team ready for the competition.
“Being around our teammates all the time, we have this bond that no one else shares with us, we have a camaraderie that brings us closer. I think the closeness of our group has helped us get through.
“We’ve been here for a month, that’s a long time to spend with just each other, but we’ve done such a good job in knowing when our teammates need time to chill by ourselves or when we need to be with each other and soak up the moment – we’re preparing for an Olympic Games.”
The team will compete in the first event of the entire Games, facing off on the softball diamond against hosts Japan on the morning of 21 July in Fukushima to open the Tokyo 2020 Olympic competition.
The opening round will be the first time the Australians have played an official international fixture since the final of the Australia Pacific Cup in February 2020, also against Japan.
Training and competing in Japan since June, the Spirit were the first overseas team to arrive in the country ahead of the Games, getting invaluable competition against Japanese professional teams and the Japanese national squad.
The team qualified in the winner takes all Asia/Oceania Olympic qualifier in China back in September 2019, impressively allowing only four runs scored against and committing no defensive errors throughout the entire tournament.
Australian Olympic team for Tokyo – Softball
|Michelle Cox (NSWIS)||30||Debut|
|Rachel Lack (NSWIS)||26||Debut|
|Stacey McManus (NSWIS)||32||Debut|
|Kaia Parnaby (NSWIS)||30||Debut|
|Gabrielle Plain (NSWIS)||22||Debut|
|Stacey Porter (NSWIS)||39||3rd (2004, 2008)|
|Ellen Roberts (NSWIS)||29||Debut|
|Tarni Stepto (NSWIS)||21||Debut|
|Taylah Tsitsikronis (NSWIS)||26||Debut|
|Jade Wall (NSWIS Training Agreement)||32||Debut|