Australia defeated China by a score of 9-3 on Sunday 29 September in the final of the Asia/Oceania Olympic Softball Qualifier to complete the line-up of teams that will compete in the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo next summer.
The Asia/Oceania Qualifier, played in Shanghai, was the last of three regional qualifying tournaments to determine who would join hosts Japan and 2018 World Champions USA in the Tokyo Olympic competition.
In July, Italy qualified from the Europe/Africa region by beating GB 5-0 in the final, and in August, Canada and Mexico were the teams that emerged from the Americas Qualifier.
Because the Olympic competition in 2020 will consist of only six teams, compared to eight teams when softball was on the Olympic programme from 1996 through 2008, former Olympic competitors including China, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela will not be in the tournament next year.
Baseball/softball will not be on the programme for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, but the sports are hoping for a return when the Olympics is held in Los Angeles in 2028.
Olympic host countries can now request additional sports to be added to the programme, which is why baseball/softball has been included in Tokyo and why hopes are high for re-inclusion when the United States hosts in 2028.
Softball will have the honour of kicking off next year's Olympics on 22 July with special opening games at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, and for players on the GB Women’s Team, who did so well to reach the final of the Europe/Africa Qualifier, defeating the Netherlands along the way, watching the Olympic softball tournament will be a bittersweet experience.
But for the Australians, who have medalled in all four previous Olympic tournaments, securing a place in Tokyo against the top softball nations from Asia and Oceania, including China, Indonesia, Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines and Chinese Taipei, was a cause for elation.
Two-time Olympic medallist and Australian National Team Captain Stacey Porter said: "I waited for 12 years to return to the Olympics and it is so rewarding to be back in Tokyo. It was not an easy path, but the girls stuck in there and we worked hard to qualify. They fully deserve the slot.
"Having won a silver at the Athens Olympics and the bronze in Beijing, I am looking forward to the gold medal in Tokyo. It is not going to be easy, but we are determined to emerge tops this time around.
"I may be 38, but I am far from quitting the game. I simply love the game too much. I will be around as long as I can contribute.”