Beijing may mark softball's last appearance at the Olympics, and the US team wants to defend its gold medals as well as the sport.
The Beijing Olympics may mark softball's last appearance at the Games, and the US team wants to defend three straight golds as well as the future of their sport.
The International Olympic Committee voted three years ago to drop softball and baseball after Beijing, which US players say was a mistake.
Catcher Stacey Nuveman says the US team and those playing in other nations were devastated, but hopes the IOC will overturn the ruling next year.
SOUNDBITE: STACEY NUVEMAN, USA SOFTBALL
"We toured the U.S., we played college teams and a lot of local All-Star teams, so we're very aware of the American sentiment about softball, but we are far from alone in our desire to get the sport back in. There are seven other countries in this Olympic programme, and there's hundreds of countries that when that decision was made, there was broken hearts all over the world, literally."
Softball was introduced in 1996, and the U.S. has captured gold in every Olympics, with some suggesting that dominance may have fostered resentment by weaker IOC nations.
But outfielder Jessica Mendoza, expected to lead the Women's Sports Foundation after Beijing, says softball also has a message of empowerment.
SOUNDBITE: JESSICA MENDOZA, USA SOFTBALL
"You think about '96 to now, it's only about 12 years of the sport really getting an opportunity to shine and show how great it is. I think that every time you play you want to pass that torch to those younger than you. We just came off a 60-game tour, all over our country, looking at young girls in the eye. I want nothing more than to tell them, "Hey, here's the torch."
Games began Tuesday with a US 11-0 thumping of Venezuela, and the Americans team has vowed no mercy for opponents on the field in the quest for what may be the last gold.
Dan Sloan reporting.
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