Calympians at Tokyo: Softball and Soccer start group play tonight

Valerie Arioto (USA Softball) and Alex Morgan (USA Women's Soccer) are the first ones up.

The delayed “2020 Tokyo” Olympic Games might be holding its opening ceremony on Friday, July 23rd (7 AM ET/4 AM PT for those who want to watch that live), but softball and soccer and their group play will start on Wednesday (Tuesday night for us in the US).

The first Tokyo Calympian to be in action will be Valerie Arioto and her USA Softball teammate as they take on Italy at 11 PM ET/8 PM PT. Arioto should be the starting 1B who bats in the middle of the potent USA lineup.

Team USA should have no problem against Italy as they play in a converted baseball stadium in the return of Softball to the Olympic Games for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Games. Unfortunately, Softball will most likely not be a part of the 2024 Paris Games, but could return for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. For Arioto, age 32 this summer, this might sadly be her lone Olympic Games appearance due to her being a dominant softball player in the wrong era.

The sport that typically kicks off the summer Olympics will start second. For Cal fans, all three Calympians will be playing from Tokyo Stadium, but not against each other. Alex Morgan and her USA teammates will take on Sweden, a rematch against the nation that eliminated the Americans in the 2016 Rio quarterfinals. This match will start at 4:30 AM PT/1:30 AM PT on Wednesday morning.

Alex Morgan will look to add to her International Goal total of 110 in this second biggest event in Women’s Soccer behind only the Women’s World Cup. Morgan has 5 Olympic goals entering Tokyo.

Check out Alex Morgan’s 9 goals scored in Women’s World Cup play below.

And here are her Olympic goals.

From her interview with FIFA dot com,

FIFA.com: Alex, the delay to this tournament wasn’t welcomed by everyone, but is it fair to say that it worked out pretty well for you?

Alex Morgan: Definitely. Given the circumstances, it was just an extra opportunity for me to get my body fully recovered [from pregnancy and giving birth], spend a lot of great time with my daughter and be able to take my time coming back to the field. It was a scary time of course, and every week during the spring and summer last year there seemed to be something new as the pandemic developed. But it was definitely a relief to me to know that I could spend a bit of time at home with my husband and daughter at a time when everybody had been forced away from the soccer field, and that I’d have time to get myself fit and ready for Tokyo.

You’ve been in great form building up to these Olympics and it’s been said you’re now back to your very best. Do you feel that way?

I do feel very good right now. There are little things that I want to work on, but there are also things I’ve done well to improve on even from before getting pregnant. I feel that I’m in a very good place, both personally and with the team, and I’m looking forward to getting back to a major tournament after that huge success we had in 2019. It’s also been nine years since we made it to the top of the [Olympic] podium in 2012, so most of this team haven’t experienced success at this tournament. That’s an extra motivation.

And specifically about her Olympic experiences

To finish on the Olympics, London 2012 was your first big success with the senior national team. Does the tournament hold special meaning for you because of that?

I have so many great memories of 2012. It was an experience I’ll never forget. There is something special about the Olympics for me, partly because I grew up watching it and you know it’s much bigger than just your team and your sport. Because of those childhood memories and how much 2012 meant to me, I’ll always hold a special place for this tournament. I’m really excited to be back.

Of course, having spoken about your nice Olympic memories, I also have to ask you about Rio - especially with Sweden your first opponents here in Japan. Was going out in that quarter-final your lowest point with the national team?

(Hesitates) It was devastating, especially knowing that it was the worst finish this team has ever had. But for me personally at least, the most heartbroken I’ve been was after losing to Japan in the 2011 World Cup final. I just felt at that time that we were the best team in the world and the better team in that game. It was also my first senior tournament, so I was very wide-eyed about the whole thing. With that Sweden game, I probably didn’t fully take it in until weeks later because it was such a shock. Having said that, we seem to have played Sweden at pretty much every tournament I’ve been involved in and they always play well against us. They beat us in the group stage in 2011 and in the quarter-finals in 2016, and I always see them as one of the toughest teams we face on the world stage. We’re all really looking forward to playing against them again.

The whole interview is definitely worth the quick read.

After that match, New Zealand with Betsy Hassett and Daisy Cleverly will take on Australia on the same pitch, scheduled for three hours later at 7:30 AM PT/4:30 AM PT. Both USA and New Zealand are in the same Women’s Group G.


Calympian Schedule for Wednesday, July 21st in Japan (Tuesday night in US)

All action should be streamed by NBCSports if not shown live on TV

Softball:

USA vs. Italy 11 PM ET/8 PM PT July 20th

Women’s Soccer:

USA vs. Sweden 4:30 AM PT/1:30 AM PT July 21st

New Zealand vs. Australia 7:30 AM PT/4:30 AM PT July 21st

GO BEARS!