The Canadian girls’s softball workforce has settled in following its arrival in Japan earlier this month for the delayed Tokyo Olympics and is hoping to win a medal within the sport for the primary time.
Backed by supportive hosts within the metropolis of Anjo, Aichi Prefecture, in central Japan, the workforce has adjusted nicely to the lengthy journey and COVID-19 countermeasures in place for all foreigners coming into Japan and is tuning up for the six-team event.
Canada will play its first recreation of the competitors in opposition to Mexico on July 21 in Fukushima Prefecture, about two hours north of Tokyo by Shinkansen, as softball returns to the Olympics for the primary time since 2008.
Veteran utility participant Joey Lye says the vibe throughout the workforce is nice regardless of the circumstances of getting to play in a pandemic.
“We’re coping. The truth that we’re right here, and the Olympics are ‘go,’ we’re excited to play,” Lye mentioned this week. “We’re centered on taking part in and glad to be right here. For a lot of us, that is our final go along with this workforce, so we’re absorbing daily.”
The 34-year-old Lye says the workforce has been lifted by the nice and cozy welcome it has obtained in Anjo, the identical place the workforce held a coaching camp previous to the 2018 world championships.
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“Our hosts right here in Anjo are so supportive,” Lye mentioned. “Even all through the pandemic, they have been posting on social media, saying they could not watch for us to be again.
“Our first recreation, a few days in the past, the mayor of Anjo got here out and mentioned how supportive he’s of us and that we’re his dwelling workforce,” Lye mentioned. “There’s a number of assist within the space and that has made us really feel at dwelling. We have now been right here earlier than and skilled right here earlier than, in order that helps as nicely.”
Lye’s teammate, outfielder Victoria Hayward, seconded her opinion in regards to the setup in Anjo.
“We have come right here twice earlier than … so we have constructed a reasonably superior relationship with the individuals right here they usually’ve simply been superb hosts for us,” Hayward mentioned. “So they’re serving to us with all of our meals. We’re capable of go from the lodge to the sector to a particular weight room that they’ve ready for us and again to the lodge.”
There was a minor dustup earlier of their keep, nonetheless, when some workforce members posted feedback about a few of the meals they have been served.
Lye mentioned it was a tempest in a teapot.
“There’s at all times an adjustment once we are touring round. It was a misunderstanding of a publish on social media,” Lye mentioned. “It was nothing too massive. We’re actually having fun with our hosts right here. They’re offering us with every thing we want. They’re being tremendous accommodating. We’re grateful for every thing we’re getting, regardless of what might be misconstrued by way of social media.”
Mark Smith, the coach of the ladies’s workforce, supplied an apology on Twitter in regards to the matter, noting that there was no intent to offend anyone and that gamers have been simply posting private opinions.
Although followers is not going to be permitted at video games performed throughout the Olympics, that’s not the case for the warmup video games Canada has taken half in.
“We have now had a few video games since we have now been right here, they usually have allowed followers within the stands,” Lye mentioned. “We had just a few individuals observe our observe the opposite day.”
Lye, who was the softball coach at Bucknell College in Lewisburg, Pa., for 3 years, believes the dearth of spectators on the Video games will not be an element.
“The totally different tournaments that we have now performed in, we have now performed in so many various environments,” Lye mentioned. “We have now performed with 1000’s of individuals within the stands and with barely anyone within the stands. For us, it’s only a matter of specializing in the sport and what we’re there to do, no matter if there are followers within the stands or not.”
Lye and most of her teammates will probably be collaborating of their first Olympics and says it is going to be an actual thrill.
“Being part of this program for 12 years and having helped create the tradition that we have now, it has been an extended street to get up to now and an thrilling street,” Lye mentioned. “Just some years in the past, after they introduced the game can be again within the Olympics, it form of rejuvenated this system, and the tradition round softball typically.”
Lye famous the squad does have gamers with Olympic expertise.
“We have now 4 (gamers) who’ve been to the Olympics beforehand, and all people else has not, so there’s a number of pleasure about it being the primary time for many people and for the 4 who’ve been to rewrite their story,” Lye mentioned.
Lye’s story is an fascinating one, as she performed each ice hockey and softball at Williams Faculty in Williamstown, Mass.
“I selected my school primarily based on the place I may get an excellent training, play softball and play hockey,” Lye mentioned. “In order that allowed me to slender my search and permit me to land on Williams Faculty in Massachusetts.”
Lye admitted her old flame was hockey.
“As a younger youngster it was my dream to play for the ladies’s nationwide workforce,” she mentioned. “Rising up I needed to be an expert athlete, for so long as I can keep in mind. The dream was at all times in hockey. The chance simply introduced itself with softball. I like softball as nicely and was capable of pursue that chance.”
Lye made it clear that Crew Canada desires the gold right here.
“Our aim is to be on the highest of that podium. We have now labored extraordinarily onerous to place ourselves able the place that is a actuality. Two weeks from now, that is our hope and dream and our aim.
“I believe it is going to be a particularly aggressive event,” Lye mentioned. “The six groups which can be there are all extraordinarily aggressive and have top-notch pitching. Each single recreation goes to be an thrilling one. On the finish of the day, we’re adequate to be on the highest of that podium.”
When requested if household again dwelling has been sending the workforce messages of concern, Lye mentioned that was not the case.
“All we’re getting from dwelling are a number of messages of assist,” she mentioned. “For us as athletes, we attempt fairly onerous to not learn or hearken to a number of what’s occurring within the media, and simply keep centered on practising and taking part in.
Joined nationwide workforce at 16
“I believe a number of our households are conscious of that truth and they also proceed to feed us with the assist we would like and wish and encourage us via it,” Lye mentioned. “They know that Softball Canada and the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee) will handle us. They know there are a number of measures in place surrounding this Olympic Video games to maintain Japan and the athletes secure.”
Hayward says the workforce is wanting ahead to seeing the Olympic Village.
“I believe we’re excited to see that, however we’re extra simply excited to expertise it collectively,” Hayward mentioned. “So does not matter what it seems like or what it’s.”
Hayward, who was the youngest participant ever to affix the nationwide workforce when she made her first look at 16 in 2009, confessed that one of many issues throughout the squad was about espresso.
“We have made positive that there is a good espresso choice. That is one of many massive issues we’re apprehensive about,” Hayward mentioned. “However in truth, we have performed in all types of environments, so we all know that Japan is high of the road in every thing they do, their consideration to element is superior. The whole lot appears to have a goal. They’re so logical. It is simply every thing at all times is sensible whenever you’re in Japan.”
Lye had a message for all of her compatriots again dwelling which can be following the workforce.
“We actually recognize all people’s assist. It has been an extended 15 months for everyone,” Lye mentioned. “With the delay of the Olympics, the day by day coaching grind has been so totally different and fairly powerful. It’s superb to see how a lot assist we have now from dwelling. Hold it coming and thanks for following.”