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Softball Olympic Games 2020 - Official Payoff

Rising Japanese softball star Miu Goto hopes to shine at LA28 Olympic Games

Rising Japanese softball star Miu Goto hopes to shine at LA28 Olympic Games
22/11/2021
"As I look toward 2028, in order for the Japan team to be stronger, I have to raise my game. I want to give it my all," she said.

Japanese left-handed pitcher Miu Goto is the new face of Japanese softball. In July, she joined veteran Yukiko Ueno in a dynamic duo to pitch their nation to a second consecutive Olympic gold medal, winning it all at the Tokyo 2020 Games. A few months later she was named best pitcher of the 2021 Japan Softball League season.

Goto reflected about her first Olympic experience. "Without fans it was complicated," she told Kyodo News recently. "It didn't feel like the Olympics. With no fans, playing in silence, it was lacking something in my opinion. If it had been like normal, the fans would be so noisy. So I want to savor that once more for real. I want to go to America and play good games."

Softball will not be part of the Olympic programme in Paris 2024, but is widely expected to be back for the Los Angeles 2028 Games. The 20-year-old pitcher aims to be there to defend her gold. "As I look toward 2028, in order for the Japan team to be stronger, I have to raise my game. I want to give it my all."

As the youngest player on Japan’s roster, Goto didn’t have big expectations about her role on the team. "When I was named to the national team, I didn't think there'd be a role for me," she said. "I felt a lot of anxiety, feeling maybe I'd be useless or be a hindrance to my teammates."

Most of Goto's teammates were over 30. "I was the only 20-year-old," she said. "That alone made me extremely anxious."

Performing on the biggest international softball stage -- the Olympics -- the WBSC U-19 Women’s Softball World Cup 2019 silver medalist showed nerves of steel. She collected three of Japan’s five wins at Tokyo 2020, pitching in five of the six games and allowing only three hits in 10.2 innings pitched. She didn't surrender a single run in the tournament, and struck out 22.

"I thought that if I got nervous and panicked, that would upset my rhythm," Goto said. "But I pitched with the belief that no matter what, my teammates would bail me out and convinced we would win. If I did surrender a run, I believed my teammates would get those runs back. That added more to my conviction."

The impact of the Olympic gold medal on home soil has been immediate for Japan. "There are many more fans. Because we were allowed to put the spotlight on softball, since the Olympics more different people have come to Japan Softball League games," Goto said. "It's so different from before."

"Does winning a gold medal change your life? I've come to feel I want to do things going forward that might earn me recognition as one who propels the Japanese softball world, or perhaps carries it on her shoulders," Goto said.

She thinks that the Olympics have allowed her to grow personally, both on and off the field. "Mentally I got really strong. I believe in myself more. I brought my thoughts with me and they weren't all positive. But because I had those harsh feelings in mind and still competed (at that level), I felt I grew a lot."