Olympic selection re-starts at AIS in 2021

Olympic selection re-starts at AIS in 2021

Softball Australia’s selection process for the Tokyo Olympic Games re-starts at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) from 18 February – 3 March 2021.

Following the cancellation of the 2021 Gilley’s Shield (Open Women’s National Championship), a National Selection Camp was announced to provide the opportunity for athletes to impress selectors and secure a spot in the 2021 Travelodge Aussie Spirit squad vying for Olympic selection.

The camp marks the first hosted by the AIS since March 2020 with Australia’s best female softballers taking part in the fortnight conducted by the Softball Australia High Performance team, where they will be evaluated through games and specific training across the AIS and Hawker Softball Centre.

At the AIS today for the Travelodge Aussie Spirit’s Battery (pitchers and catchers) Camp, pitcher Kaia Parnaby said preparations are taking shape ahead of the re-scheduled Games.

She said the extra 12 months forced upon them have been a blessing in disguise as the group fine tunes their game, and a blink of the eye time wise compared to the 12 years the sport has spent out of the Olympic cycle, last competing in Beijing in 2008.

“A lot of us debuted for Australia in 2009 so for us to hold out another 12 months, it’s a small miss-step in our whole 12 year progression,” said Parnaby, a veteran of over 140 games for Australia.

“As much as it hurt us a lot finding out it was getting postponed, we can be another 12 months prepared, we can find out some things we may not have found out about ourselves and I think it’s going to help us grow as a team.

“We never actually thought we’d get to play an Olympic Games when we started our careers, so for us to be less than 12 months out, we’re just excited to get there.”

In total, 34 athletes, including the complete 2020 Travelodge Aussie Spirit squad, have been invited to attend, providing the best opportunity for high-level competition, crucial in ensuring the Australian team is suitably prepared for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.

Further to facilitating suitable competition, the camp will also provide an invaluable experience for emerging players to play and train alongside established Travelodge Aussie Spirit stars as well as day-to-day High Performance experience provided by the AIS.

The invited athletes include (in alphabetical order):

Ryleigh Arnott (NSW)
Janice Blackman (QLD)*
Michelle Cox (NSW)*
Chelsea Forkin (QLD)*
Leigh Godfrey (WA)*
Hirari Kurihara (QLD)
Georgia Hood (SA)
Shannon Keevers (NSW)*
Rhiannon Kemp (QLD)
Olivia Kuzminski (WA)
Rachel Lack (NSW)*
Stacey McManus (NSW)*
Molly Meenan (NSW)
Tahli Moore (NSW)*
Aislinn Morris (WA)
Kaia Parnaby (NSW)*
Leah Parry (WA)*
Grace Peters (VIC)
Gabbie Plain (NSW)**
Stacey Porter (NSW)*
Sara Riou (WA)
Ellen Roberts (NSW)*
Justine Smethurst (QLD)*
Brooke Spence (ACT)
Dorinda Stone (QLD)
Tarni Stepto (NSW)*
Brooke Stewart (QLD)
Bree Trim (VIC)
Taylah Tsitsikronis (NSW)*
Jade Wall (QLD)*
Clare Warwick (ACT)*
Belinda White (SA)*
Tamieka Whitefield (QLD)*
Chelsea Robinson (SA)*

*2020 Travelodge Aussie Spirit squad member
**Gabbie Plain attendance pending US College commitments with Washington Huskies

The National Selection Camp comes off the back of Softball Australia receiving significant funding from the AIS to assist in the development of the next generation of softball athletes.

The funding paves the way for National Pathway Battery Coordinator, Karen Marr to continue her duties of overseeing the development of training programs specifically for pitchers and catchers, conduct of battery camps and working closely with the junior pathways to develop battery programs.

David Pryles, Chief Executive Officer at Softball Australia, says the support of softball from the AIS will prove invaluable as the sport is omitted from the Olympic cycle in 2024.

“The International Olympic Committee confirmed this week that softball would not be one of the sports played at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games,” said Pryles.

“However, given the likelihood that softball will be played at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, we need to start preparing potential athletes to be as competitive as possible, and our thanks goes to the AIS for assisting us with a generous grant towards our pathways program.

“Karen’s position becoming full-time with Softball Australia is enormous for our development pathways and with her help, we can begin to identify and form the nucleus of an Australian Olympic team in 2028.”

Immediately following the National Selection Camp, athletes will prepare for the Women’s Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball from 5-7 March and the Australia Pacific Cup from 8-11 March which will also form part of the selection process.

Both events will be broadcast live on FOX SPORTS Australia.