21/07/2021 - 27/07/2021

@wbsc    

Hosted by:   JPN

Softball Olympic Games 2021 - Official Payoff

Tokyo 2020: Japanese Olympic Softball Team head coach Utsugi reflects on chance, pitching staff

Tokyo 2020: Japanese Olympic Softball Team head coach Utsugi reflects on chance, pitching staff
28/11/2020
"We will do our best to get the gold medal for the children who are playing softball in the future," said the national team leader.

After the conclusion of the Japanese Women's Softball League, with UENO Yukiko’s Bic Camera Bee Queen winning the title for the second year in a row, the Japanese National/Olympic Team returned to training after nine months off the field. Head coach UTSUGI Reika gave an exclusive interview with Tokyo Sports and talked about her feelings, the changing plans after the outbreak of the pandemic, her pitching staff and the goals for Tokyo 2020.

"We will do our best to get the gold medal for the children who are playing softball in the future," said UTSUGI.

UTSUGI, born on June 1 1963 in China, represented Japan at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games, winning a silver and a bronze medal. As a head coach, she led Japan to back-to-back World Championship titles in 2012 and 2014 and will lead Japan in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic campaign.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic altered UTSUGI’s planning in March, forcing her to cancel team training for nine months: "I had a plan of how to prepare the team for three years, and it was going well. However, it must be extended by one year due to the spread of the coronavirus. It would be nice if I could extend my plan too, but I couldn't go anywhere in the world, and I couldn't do a training camp, so I was a little worried because I didn't know the situation of the players."

One of the main questions for the China-born head coach will be how to use 38-year-old ace UENO during the Olympics. Some people might think it will be an all-UENO tournament. "To be honest, I don't really think that way. After all, FUJITA Yamato has also grown, so I will go with a double ace.

"UENO would be thrown every day in the current situation, but I think her accuracy will drop. In the final match, I want a scene where UENO and FUJITA can go 100%, so they are pitching in perfect condition. However, I must also use the power of UENO and FUJITA because I cannot lose during the opening round," she added.

The Japanese National Women’s Softball Team remained unchanged with 20 players on the roster. However, UTSUGI said anything can change in an instant in these uncertain times. "Don't get injured or sick. If you get injured, you can't return to your original body. If you get sick, the results of the training you have made for three years will end in an instant,” she said. “So far, when you get coronavirus, I'm afraid that the physical strength we've cultivated in practice will disappear in an instant. That's the scariest thing".