It’s 100 days until the first pitch of the XVI WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship – and for the Aussie Spirit players, it will be the busiest 100 days of their careers.
That first game in Chiba, Japan, on August 2 will mark the start of the Spirit’s bid to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
But before then, there is a season of playing in the National Pro Fastpitch league in the US, which will give the 48 games of Spirit high-level competition ahead of the World Championship.
The winner of the Chiba tournament will be the first nation to claim a spot into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic softball competition. Hosts Japan have automatic qualification, so if Japan win the World Championship the second-placed team will earn an Olympic berth.
Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow says preparation for the World Championship started soon after the team was selected.
“It’s a great moment in any athlete’s career to get the call-up to represent your country at a World Championship,” Barlow says.
“For some it will be the first time and others it will be multiple times, but each time it is special. They had a couple of weeks to enjoy the pats on the back and acknowledgements that come with this type of selection, but now they need to be ready to make daily decisions that are in the best interests of their teammates.
“They need to be ready to hand themselves over to the team and work hard like never before, commit like never before and back themselves like never before.”
Although some of the competing teams are well below Australia’s world ranking of four, Barlow says no team can be taken lightly.
“The World Championship will be very tough as the number of Tier 1 teams is deeper than ever before,” he says.
“There are no easy games and you need to be ready and prepared to bring your A game every day, but that’s what you expect at a World Championship and we will prepare them both physically and mentally for that.
“I’m extremely comfortable the players that have been given this honour will stand up and accept the challenges that come with competing against the world’s best teams. In saying that, it’s important we remember we also are one of the best teams in the world and we back ourselves against anyone on any given day.”
Japan has hosted the WBSC flagship softball event twice, in 1970 and 1998, so the event will be back in Japan after 20 years.
Three stadiums will host the round robin and the placement round: Akitsu Stadium, in Narashino City; Naspa Stadium, in Narita City; and Z. A. Ball Park, in Ichihara City. The championship playoffs will be held in Zozo Marine Stadium, in Chiba, with a capacity of 30,119.
A total of 16 teams from the five Olympic continents have qualified for Chiba:
- Africa: Botswana, South Africa
- Americas: Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, USA, Venezuela
- Asia: China, China Taipei, Japan (host), Philippines.
- Europe: Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands.
- Oceania: Australia, New Zealand.
Only four nations have won the Women’s Softball World Championship in the past. USA has been dominant with 10 world titles, and this year will be the defending champions. However, Japan won two of the last three World Championships, and will look for its 4th title as the host team. Australia and New Zealand won the 1st and 5th edition of the event respectively.
The pools and schedule of the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship 2018 will be announced later.
AUSSIE SPIRIT TEAM FOR 2018 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
|Amelia Cudicio (NSW)||Samantha Poole (NSW)||Tarni Stepto (NSW)||Belinda White (SA)|
|Chelsea Forkin (Qld)||Stacey Porter (NSW)||Taylah Tsitsikronis (NSW)||Tamieka Whitefield (Qld)|
|Leigh Godfrey (WA)||Ellen Roberts (NSW)||Jade Wall (Qld)|
|Stacey McManus (NSW)||Justine Smethurst (Qld)||Clare Warwick (ACT)|
|Kaia Parnaby (NSW)||Carmelle Sorensen (Qld)||Melinda Weaver (Qld)|