YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — They marched single file onto the podium near shortstop with the blank expressions of the condemned.
When silver medals were handed out, they dangled them around each other’s necks like weights.
Eyes were red and damp. Perfunctory waves for the cameras were managed. Hands fidgeted with bouquets of sunflowers.
Stunned, yes. Heartbroken, yes. Most precisely: devastated.
“It stings,” Cat Osterman would say more than two hours later. “I’ve never been on a team that had so much fight.”
Just not enough.
Japan won its second straight Olympic softball gold medal, beating the United States 2-0 Tuesday night behind 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno in an emotional repeat of the 2008 victory in Beijing.
For Osterman and Monica Abbott, it was just like 4,723 days earlier.
Only worse. This likely was their final moment on their sport’s grandest stage, which the International Olympic Committee has snatched away until at least 2028.
“I challenge the IOC to instate softball as a women’s sport into the Olympic docket on a regular basis,” said Abbott, who pitched a night before her 36th birthday. “It’s been proven that we attract viewers, we’re active on social media. It’s a worldwide sport. It’s played really well in multiple continents and areas of the world, and I think it’s really difficult when you’re in an Olympics and then out of an Olympics, you’re in one and you’re out of one, to continue to build that momentum and engagement for this sport to grow worldwide.”