- Yukiko Ueno was the dominant force behind Japan’s 2008 softball gold medal.
- Ueno, now 38, is determined to fight “to the last drop” all these years later.
- Can she take underdog Japan (+175) to the promised land once again?
TOKYO - In 2008, the last time softball was part of the Olympics, Yukiko Ueno was dominant. Ueno entered the 2008 Olympics with a perfect game to her name, as well as a bronze medal from 2004.
However, her performance in the 2008 Olympics was arguably the greatest of her career. Over the last two days of the tournament, Ueno pitched 28 innings over three games against the United States and Australia.
This herculean performance involved throwing 413 pitches in those two days, and nearly single-handedly carrying Japan to the Olympic gold medal.
Now, Ueno is 38, and Japan, which was an underdog in 2008, is an underdog once more in 2021.
Tokyo 2021 - Women's Softball Odds
- USA (W) -200
- Japan (W) +175
- Canada (W) +2500
- Australia (W) +10000
Granted, underdog has varying definitions depending on perspective. Japan is an underdog, but not compared to the likes of Canada and Australia.
The real problem for Japan is a resurgent United States squad, which is most likely the most talented team in the tournament.
Ueno pitched in a Japanese mercy rule victory over Australia, and seemed determined to take her team as far as she could, even if it wasn’t possible to replicate her immense performance from 2008.
"All I felt was excitement before the game," said Ueno after the victory over Australia. "Early on I was trying to not get ahead of myself and became too picky. So from the second inning on I just let go and stayed aggressive, relying on what I know. I just want to make sure I give these Games everything I have to offer, to the very last drop.”
Ueno’s fighting spirit should certainly be commended, but will it be enough to power the hometown team past a strong United States lineup on Sunday?
The two gold medal rivals face off at 9 p.m. EST, and the eyes of the softball world - and the online gambling world - will be on them.