Two weeks ago the IOC voted to discontinue softball as an Olympic sport after the 2008 Games, primarily because of a lack of competition. Since the sport was introduced to the Games in 1996, the U.S. has won every gold medal--the last, in Athens, after outscoring its opponents 51--1--and the Yanks entered the inaugural World Cup riding an 85-game international winning streak. The five-team tournament, however, made a pretty compelling case for returning the sport to the Games. Fielding a team with seven fresh faces, the U.S. lost twice, including a 3--1 defeat to Japan in the final. Canadian coach Lori Sippel, whose team beat the U.S. 2--1 in the opening game, said she hoped the IOC voters would see the result and reconsider. "The Olympics is about the elite playing, and tonight we got a taste of what that is," she said.
The tournament wasn't without its bright spots for the U.S., which rebounded from the loss to Canada by riding the hot bat of newcomer Vicky Galindo and reeling off three straight wins to reach the final. But the team's inexperience showed against the 2004 bronze medalists. "They executed, and we didn't," said U.S. coach Mike Candrea after the final. "Our lack of practice caught up to us a couple times today."