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Japan beats Australia in softball to start Olympic competition

21 July 2021 09:45

TOKYO. KAZINFORM - The Tokyo Olympics began after a one-year postponement due to the coronavirus with the first pitch of Wednesday's softball game as host and defending champion Japan homered three times in an 8-1 win over Australia at Fukushima Azuma stadium, north of the capital, Kyodo reports.

The venue was among those chosen in northeastern Japan, which was battered by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, and was in line with organizers using the Tokyo games as a vehicle to boost the region's recovery.

Sixteen months after the decision was made to delay the Olympics and two days before the official opening ceremony in Tokyo, the games in Fukushima are, like most other Olympic events, being held behind closed doors due to surging infection figures.

For 19 days, through Aug. 8, 11,000 athletes from 205 countries and regions will compete at venues in and outside the Japanese capital, which is currently under a state of emergency.

Australia's softball team, which has three bronze medals and a silver in the sport, took extra precautions considering the difficult circumstances, arriving in Japan on June 1 to ensure a good chance to prepare for the big event.

Softball, one of the sports added by Tokyo organizers, has returned to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, when Japan won its only gold medal in the sport. It has been joined by baseball, also dropped after 2008, and four new sports -- surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding and karate.

In the softball opener, Minori Naito homered drove in two runs and scored three, while ace pitcher and 2008 Beijing Olympic hero Yukiko Ueno allowed a run over 4-1/3 innings to earn the win.

Naito tied the game 1-1 in the first when she walked and scored on a Yu Yamamoto single.

Yamato Fujita, Japanese softball's answer to major league two-way star Shohei Ohtani as one of the team's top sluggers and pitchers, belted a two-run homer to make it 5-1 before a sixth run came in on a Nodoka Harada sacrifice fly.

Yamamoto ended the game by homering with Naito aboard in the fifth.