Yukiko Ueno, who won the last Olympic gold medal in softball as Japan’s ace pitcher at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, expressed her disappointment on Monday with the International Olympic Committee’s vote to exclude the sport from the Olympic program.
Softball and baseball had fielded a joint bid in their campaign to return to the Olympics from the 2020 Games to be held in Tokyo, but wrestling, a traditional Olympic sport, won reinstatement easily on Sunday at the IOC general session in Buenos Aires.
The 31-year-old Ueno, whose pitching inspired Japan to its first softball gold medal, said Sunday’s decision was a crushing blow.
“Personally, it seems exceedingly far off,” she said. “I was so keen to give my all in games held on our home soil.”
“I saw it in a handful of dreams. Unfortunately, those dreams are now gone.”
Because Olympic participation had played an important role in strengthening corporate teams, Olympic exclusion could threaten the popularity of the sport.
Ueno had worked on the failed joint baseball and softball bid as a spokesperson, in which she tried to convey softball’s attraction to the uninitiated.
“This is a competition that requires a lot of money for grounds,” she said. “I felt it was a difficult sell.”
But despite the setback, Ueno’s passion is undiminished.
“This just means we are back at the starting point,” she said. “I believe that some day it will be back and I will not give up. As long as I am playing I want to continue to be a role model for children.”