After a restful three hours of sleep, I dashed through the worst rain storm we’ve had yet and caught the 7:30 a.m. bus to the media center. Once we arrived, I hopped a second bus to the BMX venue and had just found a seat when a volunteer came onto the bus and informed us the BMX finals had been posponed until tomorrow (Friday) morning. Free day! (Well, until softball finals at 5:30 and women’s soccer finals at 9 p.m. That is, if it doesn’t stop raining.
So after catching up on some work, Lindsay, Jim and I headed to the Silk Market to do a bit of bargaining and bartering (I have pins, and I will not go one Yuan higher!) and eat lunch. After lunch, we headed to the softball field (after walking 1.5 miles in flipflops—as we do many times each day—and scamming our way into a cab with a Mandarin-speaking Brit who looked a lot like a younger Keifer Sutherland) for the gold-medal game against Japan.
The U.S. had already beaten Japan twice in the tournament, but because of the screwy eight-team bracket system used in the Olympics, they had to beat them a third time for the gold. Japan had played 21 innings the day before, including a 4-1 11-inning loss to the U.S., so most people assumed they’d be exhausted. Not to mention, the U.S. team is just plain better.
But not on August 21. In a shocking upset, the Japanese softball team defeated the U.S. 3-1. This is not how it was supposed to end.
Lindsay and I watched from the stands and took the emotional roller coaster ride right along with the U.S. fans, friends and family who’d traveled to Beijing to see their team win one more gold.
After the game, outfielder Jessica Mendoza led the three teams in a ceremony meant to unite softball players around the world and send a message to the IOC. I spoke with her after the game in an exclusive interview that you can check out here. Hopefully Jessica’s efforts will help bring back softball. If nothing else, they showed true sport above self.