Olympic dreams on hold

Chris Gentilviso

Olympic sports thrive on the ability of a country to diagnose its talent.

Since its debut in 1996, softball has been an exemplary sport for the United States in following that script.

Beyond bringing home three gold medals to America’s trophy case, softball’s Olympic exposure instilled a base of interest from young girls across the country to participate competitively.

They watched Dot Richardson hit the first home run in Olympic softball history on June 21, 1996.

They watched Jennie Finch market herself as a dynamic combination of athlete and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

But thanks to the International Olympic Committee, 2008 will be the last year to watch any softball, for now.

In retrospect, the timing of that decision seems like a conspiracy against Northwestern.

Back in 2005, the IOC voted to cut baseball and softball beginning in 2012. It was the first time an Olympic sport had been cut since polo in 1936.

The vote on softball was a 52-52 tie, but a majority was thwarted by athletic equipment manufacturer Jim Easton, who abstained over fears of a conflict of interest.

In the three years since that decision was made, coach Kate Drohan built a college powerhouse in a corner of the map that at one time could never compete with Arizona, Texas or UCLA.

The reality is that the current stars playing at Sharon J. Drysdale Field and other college softball stadiums will miss their chance to reach the national notoriety of a Cat Osterman or Crystal Bustos.

Committee members invited Garland Cooper to the national team selection camp last season. Cooper broke a Big Ten record with 23 home runs, three years after breaking the school record with 11 as a freshman.

The life of one arm has carried No. 13 NU’s run this season. Sophomore Lauren Delaney’s one-hit performance against the 26-13 Fighting Irish on Tuesday affirmed she is on track to reach an international stage.

Maybe 2016 is the right time.Maybe Chicago is the right place.

But for those of you hoping to see Delaney with a medal around her neck in Chicago, she will reach her 28th birthday on June 13th of that year, months before the torch even hits its destination.

An eight-year wait to see one of America’s premier collegiate softball talents hardly seems justified.

But rest assured. For the latest news headlines on badminton, judo, and other sports, visit NBCOlympics.com.

Deputy sports editor Chris Gentilviso is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected]