The Aussie Spirit, the Australian women’s softball team, will be among the first athletes to arrive in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics after leaving Sydney on Monday.
The squad of 23 will arrive in Ota City for a training camp before facing Japan on July 21, a game that marks the start of official Olympic competition two days before the opening ceremony.
Having not faced an international opponent since February last year, the Aussie Spirit, which has won a medal in each of its past Olympic appearances, will also play against professional softball clubs in Japan, as well as two games against the Japanese national team, before the Olympics get underway.
“We’ve done so much training over the last year, we’ve had intra-squad camps against one another, now we finally get to play some really tough competition against Japanese clubs,” said squad member Jade Wall.
Earlier this month, Australia started to vaccinate its Olympic and Paralympic athletes with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 shot.
Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll said at the time that getting a vaccine was not compulsory but “highly, highly recommended.”
Softball is returning to the Olympics having been removed from the program after the 2008 Games.
It’s one of a number of sports added to the Olympics ahead of Tokyo, alongside sport climbing, surfing, skateboarding and karate.
“All staff and players heading to Japan today are fully vaccinated thanks to the Australian Olympic Committee,” said Softball Australia CEO David Pryles.
“They’ll also be undergoing stringent testing and checks as soon as they land at the airport and throughout their camp and Olympic fixtures.
“Movements in Japan are restricted to the one level of the team hotel in Ota where they will complete gym work, meetings, meals and, of course, relaxing amongst themselves.”
In the past few weeks, there has been mounting pressure in Japan for the Games to be canceled amid the pandemic, although International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound recently told CNN that a cancellation is “essentially off the table.”