There is no Olympic gold to strive for, but Jay Miller and Team USA will soldier on.
On Thursday in Berlin, the International Olympic Committee recommended that two sports be added to the 2016 games – golf and rugby. The final vote on those sports will come Oct. 9 in Copenhagen.
Miller, the Mississippi State coach who took the reins of the national team this year, said the snub of softball caused him “disappointment and frustration.”
Softball was hoping for reinstatement after getting voted out of the 2012 London Games four years ago.
“All the work and effort that’s gone into trying to get back in the last four years – I think it’s real sad for the future and the dreams of a lot of young girls all around the world,” Miller said. “They had that to aspire to and to look forward to and to dream about.”
Also rejected Thursday were baseball, karate, squash and roller sports.
Miller, who led the U.S. to titles in the Canada Cup, World Cup and Japan Cup this summer, will continue to look forward. Next July, the World Championships will take place in Oklahoma City.
He thinks there’s still plenty to play for.
“That’s still going to be a goal and a dream to play for the national team and compete with USA on your chest,” Miller said.
Several Team USA players echoed that sentiment Thursday.
“I think the main thing is to just look at this as not a deal-breaker, but as motivation to keep this sport growing and keep it going,” said Stanford’s Ashley Hansen, one of 10 rookies on the national team this summer.
While softball in the U.S. will survive – although there is the challenge of now having no United States Olympic Committee funding – it’s the programs in other countries that may suffer.
“I think our biggest fear in this is it will be difficult for us, being part of the international federation, to be able to promote throughout the world,” said Ron Radigonda, executive director of the Amateur Softball Association of America.
Said Miller, “That’s going to really determine the level of competition we’re going to be provided now internationally.”
Miller said he figured rugby – a seven-man version was recommended – would get the nod, because it had strong support from IOC President Jacques Rogge. Miller expected the other recommendation to be either golf or softball.
He said he wasn’t shocked by the result. All Miller can do now is direct the team’s focus to the worlds. Maybe, one day, softball will be an Olympic sport again.
As veteran pitcher Jennie Finch said, “This fight isn’t over.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal