The Myth of US Olympic Softball Dominance

Team USA's Superiority was NOT a Valid Reason to Remove Softball from the Games

By TSC Analyst/Contributor DANIEL URBAN 
LOMBARD Softball was removed from Olympic competition following the 2008 Games in Beijing. Several reasons were cited by the International Olympic Committee for its decision to exclude the sport: (1) a lack of "universality" (meaning softball is not played in enough countries), (2) a suggestion that softball was caught in the steroid storm that caused baseball to be removed from the Games the same year, and (3) Team USA softball was too dominant. The purpose of this article is to dispute (3).

Plenty of other national teams are as dominant—or even MORE dominant—than Team USA was during softball's Olympic run from 1996-2008. During that period Team USA won 3 gold medals and 1 silver medal; below are the list of national teams that were either as dominant or more so during that same timespan:

1. 10,000 Meter Run (Men): Ethiopia; 4 gold medals

2. Archery (Team Men): South Korea; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

3. Archery (Women): South Korea; 4 gold medals

4. Archery (Team Women): South Korea; 4 gold medals

5. Basketball (Women): USA; 4 gold medals (Team USA men's basketball has won 3 gold medals and 1 bronze medal since 1996 and are therefore not as dominant as Team USA softball)

6. Fencing (Women): Italy; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

7. Equestrian (Women): France; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

8. Soccer (Women): USA; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

9. Gymnastics (Men): China; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

10. Judo-Lightweight (Men): China; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

11. Synchronized Swimming (Women): Russia; 3 gold medals (was not offered at 1996 games)

12. Table Tennis (Men): China; 3 gold medals, 3 silver medals, 3 bronze medals (Chinese men players won 9 of the 12 total medals awarded from 1996-2008)

13. Table Tennis (Women): China; 4 gold medals, 2 silver medals, 2 bronze medals (Chinese women players won 8 of of the 12 total medals awarded from 1996-2008)

14. Beach Volleyball (Men): USA; 3 gold medals, 1 silver medal

Three nations stand out as particularly dominant. The first is South Korea which has been overwhelmingly strong in team men's archery, women's archery, and team women's archery.

The second is China which has had a monopoly on ping pong. Chinese players have won more than 70% of the total medals awarded in the sport, including 7 of 8 gold medals from 1996-2004.

The third is Ethiopia which has had a stranglehold on the 10,000 meter men's distance run.

South Korean, Chinese and Ethiopian sports have dominated their competition from 1996-2008 considerably more than US softball did during its era, yet there was no talk of removing those sports.

There are also three events that the US has been equally or more dominant in than softball from 1996-2008: women's soccer, women's basketball and men's beach volleyball. Most intriguingly, two of these sports, basketball and volleyball, are very similar to softball.

These three sports were all invented in America sometime around the turn of the 20th century, were later added for international play at the Olympics, and are very popular in America now. The US has always fielded competitive Olympic teams for each. Yet for some reason, softball was singled out as the sport that was not allowed to continue in the Games.

The line of reasoning that the US is too dominant in international softball and that this led to its Olympic demise is, by itself, a flawed line of reasoning. Read more.