U.S. almost certain to win softball gold again
Posted: Wednesday August 4, 2004 9:20PM; Updated: Wednesday August 4, 2004 9:20PM
ATHENS, Aug 5 (Reuters) -- Softball has been an American preserve at the Olympics since its introduction in Atlanta in 1996 and it would be a major surprise if the United States did not win a third gold medal in Athens.
Played on a smaller field and with a bigger ball than baseball, the women-only sport's place in the Olympic fold is under threat because of its lack of worldwide popularity and the cost of building the Olympic venue.
To improve its appeal, changes have been made to allow more hitting action including the moving of the pitcher's base to 43 feet from the home plate instead of 40. Games should also be shorter than two hours.
All the countries that won medals in previous Games will be in Athens again -- silver medallists Japan and China, and double bronze medallists Australia.
The Greek national team will be the focus of huge interest as only two were born in Greece and most of them are Greek Americans. The sport has been played in the host country only since 2000.
The Athens competition begins on August 14 with the final on August 23 at the Hellenikon Olympic Complex.
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