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Stacey PorterHUNDREDS of young athletes across the region have had their Olympic dreams shattered with the shock axing of softball and baseball after the Beijing Games in 2008.
For Tamworth Olympian Stacey Porter, pictured left, it means she will have just one more chance for Olympic glory after her outstanding silver medal performance in Athens last year.
Infielder Stacey was the only player in the Olympics to score against the powerhouse US team, claiming Australia’s solitary consolation run in their 5-1 final defeat.
The 22-year-old is currently in Canada where her team recently won the Canada Cup.
But her mother Robyn said her daughter was shocked and disappointed at the decision, taken by the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.
She said it was sad that the glory of competing at the Olympics was to come to an end for girls like Stacey, who described the event as
“She must really concentrate on Beijing because, sadly, it will be the last chance her and so many of the players get to possibly play at that level,” said Robyn, a scoring co-ordinator for Tamworth Baseball Association.
“Myself and my husband travelled to Athens last year and the presentation of the competitors’ jackets to each player was just incredible. Stacey told me it was the best feeling to be acknowledged with her peers looking on.”
But Robyn urged softballers and their supporters to remain committed to development programs at the grass roots level to ensure the sport continued to thrive.
“With no funding coming from the Australian Olympic Committee, softball groups will definitely feel the pinch,” she said.
“But we will continue to organise softball programs in our local Tamworth area.”
One of the rising stars of the softball circuit, 16-year-old Tamworth player Ali Douglas, saw her aspirations to compete at the highest level crushed upon hearing the news.
But she said she was not deterred in her goal to one day represent Australia.
“I was very disappointed when I heard the news, especially since Australia is just starting to become competitive with the USA,” Ali said. “But I think if someone loves the sport they will continue to play.”
Tamworth’s softball community remained hopeful that national and state championships would provide enough incentive for the city’s 500 players to aim high.
Tamworth’s baseballers were also pragmatic after the decision, having seen their national team also claim silver in Athens. Like their softball counterparts, they too defied the odds to reach the final before losing 6-2 to Cuba.
And while president of the Tamworth Baseball Association John Carter said he was upset that baseball would no longer be included in the Olympics, he remained optimistic about the future.
“We are obviously disappointed but expect the arrival of the World Baseball Classic competition next year to be well received,” he said.
The Series will begin on March 3 and will be what some are predicting an alternative to the Olympic Games for baseball players.
“The Olympics essentially provides a world stage for the players and this new competition will also do just that,” Mr Carter said.
Of the 600 junior and senior baseball players in the Tamworth region, Mr Carter said many had played at state and national level since the 1970s.
“I just hope these competitions continue to develop and attract our young players. It’s nice to have the Olympics as a goal, but it’s not the be all and end all of our sport,” Mr Carter said.
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