Ben Utting Softball Officially Announced For Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Interview
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday announced the inclusion of Softball and Baseball in the sporting lineup for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The announcement came two-days before the Rio 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony, at the 129th International Olympic Committee Session in Rio de Janeiro.
Softball's global influence, devoted fan-base and positioning across many of the biggest sports markets, including in Japan, offers a unique opportunity to further promote the Olympic brand while connecting with new audiences.
Australian softball has a wonderful Olympic legacy with four medals from four Olympic games appearances in Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
Collecting three bronze medals (1996, 2000 and 2008) and a silver (2004), the Australian women's softball team, Aussie Spirit are looking forward to another chance to take out a medal. Aussie Spirit and the USA are the only teams to medal at all four Olympics where softball was featured.
Fourtime Olympian and medallist, Tanya Harding, comments on softball's return to the Olympics in 2020.
'The Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport and I know it is a goal for many young Australian girls to represent their country at this elite level. Softball brings together nations and enables young women to showcase their craft. Softball is an incredible sport, played by some of the most talented athletes in the world – it definitely deserves its place on the Olympic stage."
'Olympic re-entry is an incredible opportunity for our national women's team to again participate and excel in their chosen sport on the biggest competition stage in the world. It will inspire future generations of young women to look to softball as a serious, competitive sport that will enable them to fulfil their sporting dreams.
We also extend congratulations to Baseball which will join us under the Diamond Sports banner for the 2020 Olympic program, we will be working closely with Baseball Australia Chairman David Hynes and his team in the lead up to Tokyo 2020," added John Hollingsworth – Chairman, Softball Australia Softball Australia is the national governing body for softball in Australia. They look out for the interests of all Softball associations, clubs and individual members, who play, coach, officiate and support Softball in Australia.
Softball Australia would love the public to show their support for the Aussie Spirit throughout their Olympic campaign.
Interview with Ben Utting, Softball Australia's Business Development Manager
Question: Can you describe your feelings when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the inclusion of Softball and Baseball in the sporting line-up for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?
Ben Utting: As the Sport Development Manager, I am ecstatic about the decision. It is such a great opportunity to shine a light at softball on the biggest stage in the world.
There is a huge amount of pride and satisfaction being associated with an organisation steeped with historical Olympic success. We can tell the story about our past achievements with our Aussie Women's team having medaled at every Olympics softball has been in. Our medal tally includes, bronze in '96 and 2000, then silver in 2004, and bronze again in 2008. Four Olympics, four medals. It's pretty awesome.
I will have much delight in telling stories of the many obstacles that we, as a group must overcome from this point. First, to qualify for the games, but then to finish on the podium in Tokyo, 2020. There will be a great amount of pressure on our team to rise to this opportunity, not only as playing group, but as an organisation. We are striving to compete against other countries who have the capacity to throw many more resources at their programs.
Question: How long have you been working to have Softball included in the Olympic Games?
Ben Utting: Softball and Baseball joined forces and put together a submission shortly after being bumped off the program in 2008. With the games scheduled for Tokyo in 2020, it was the perfect opportunity for both sports to plead their case. Tokyo is rich with softball and baseball tradition. The city is fully set up with many facilities for both sports. On top of that, Japan is number 1 in the world in softball and number 2 in the world in baseball. They are a real medal chance in both sports.
Question: Who has supported Softball Australia during the Olympic campaign?
Ben Utting: The Australian Sports Commission is our major supporter. Their assistance provides funding and resources to enable us to prepare our athletes for competitions. Leading up to the World Championships in 2018 and the Olympics to follow, softball will be calling on supporters and corporate partners to help us grow the high performance program to the level needed for success. That success is measured in a podium finish. We are working hard to aligning ourselves with organizations that can help give our athletes the best possible chance to achieve.
Question: What does this re-inclusion mean for Softball?
Ben Utting: Most importantly for all the young female athletes out there, it has sparked the Olympic dream! For thousands of softballers all over the country, that opportunity is one step closer to reality. Imagine what it would be like, standing on an Olympic podium about to receive a medal for competing in softball. Imagine the pride and jubilation you would feel. That thought is inspiring and now very possible for softballers.
Question: What advice do you have for those interested in playing softball?
Ben Utting: It's a great, fun game where you'll learn lots of skills that you can put to use in many other areas of your life. When I was younger I always used to like throwing balls at things. Softball gives you a way to do that, productively, and as you get better at it, it's very satisfying. To be able to throw a ball dead straight and hit your teammate on the chest is very proud feeling, not everyone can do it.
With the Olympics now back on the cards, it makes sense to choose softball as a sport. If you have aspirations of progressing to elite level in a sport, why not try a sport where there is less competition to make it. Softball has a lot less players in this country than other sports (at the moment, where hoping to change that!). So, many budding athletes might like softball because it provides a higher probability that you'll be able to go further in the game. We don't have the big numbers like other sports. It makes sense if you a numbers person.
The other good thing is, you don't need to be a superstar athlete to play. Quite often the best players on the team are not the most athletic. Softball skills are varied and success comes to those that master them, not from being genetically gifted. Although that can help.
As a beginner, you don't need to have super human athletic ability. If you are in it for the fun of it, there is a club that will fit you into a level that suits you. Every club has programs that will help teach and develop your skills in a safe environment. And don't worry if you've never played before, just give it a go, I think you'll like it.
Question: What do you love about Softball?
Ben Utting: I love being able to throw, catch and hit a ball. There is something about the feeling you get when you 'Crack" the ball cleanly, then the excitement of sprinting around the bases trying to get just one more base. It's exhilarating and thrilling. It also gives you a sense of pride to learn skills that not everybody can do straight away. To be coordinated enough to compete in softball gives you a sense of pride and confidence that you can take with you when you take on the world in other areas of your life!
Question: What's next for Softball Australia?
Ben Utting: Softball is looking forward to leveraging off the exposure of the Olympic announcement and promoting the game to help grow participation. At the same time we are putting the wheels in motion with our high performance program and ramping it up with the goal of a top 3 finish at the World Championships in 2018. Then it will all be about qualification for the Olympics in 2020, and hopefully another medal for the Aussie Spirit Women's team!
Interview by Brooke Hunter