There were hugs, cheers and maybe a few tears at the Vancouver International Airport as the B.C. members of the Canadian women’s national softball team arrived home after securing bronze at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The team beat Mexico 3-2 on Tuesday to become the first Canadian softball team to secure a medal in the Olympics.
“This is a moment I’ve dreamed of since I was young, watching athletes walk out of the airport in their Canada gear with their medals and everything,” centre fielder Larissa Franklin of Maple Ridge told Global News.
“It’s pretty cool to bring this home to Canada,” she added, describing her shiny new medal as “pretty heavy.”
Softball returned to the Olympics this year for the first time since the 2008 games in Beijing, due to the sport’s popularity in Japan.
It is not scheduled as a part of the 2024 tournament in Paris.
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Winning a medal was particularly special for White Rock pitcher Sarah Groenewegen.
Three years ago, as the Canadian team was about to head to Japan for an Olympic qualifier, Groenewegen was hospitalized and came close to death after contracting Legionaries’ disease.
As starting pitcher in Thursday’s matchup, she led the team to victory.
“This whole week has been a pretty full-circle moment,” she said.
“The date is full circle, being in Japan was full circle, because that’s where I would have been … it’s easy to take a step back now and be really, really grateful for where I am, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and my coaches.”
The Canadian team battled through occasional bouts of rain on Tuesday taking an early 2-0 lead before Mexico scored in the third and fifth innings to tie it up.
Janet Leung scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the same inning.
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“It made it more of a storybook ending,” Groenewegen said.
“It was a hard game, it wasn’t easy, but it made it even more special for the team. Any time you can battle with your teammates, it makes it a little bit more special, so I’m happy it was a 3-2 game and wasn’t a blowout.”
The Canadian team made the decision to put away social media for 10 days while they competed, something both women said helped them focus and pull together as a team.
Groenewegen said that made it particularly special to log back on and be greeted by a flood of messages of support.
Canada’s female athletes have led the country at this year’s games, taking home every medal so far.
Franklin said she was proud to be a part of that dominant class of Canadian women, and to help inspire girls to achieve their ambitions.
“Seeing females get to live out their dreams is something very, very special,” she said.
“Things are moving forward and those opportunities are coming for females, I think it’s really cool.”
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