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Softball is said to have been invented as an indoor sport in Chicago in 1887. Following a Harvard-Yale football game, a Yale booster picked up a boxing glove and threw it at a Harvard fan who picked up a stick and swung it at the glove. A reporter who saw the incident turned it into a game, tying the glove into a ball and marking lines on the floor with chalk. By the next decade, the game had moved outdoors under the name kitten ball. It wasn’t until 1926 that the name softball was first used in Colorado.

The spread of softball around the world was helped by American servicemen during World War II. The first world championship was held in 1965.

Sheena Lawrick

Softball, for women only, made its official Olympic debut at Atlanta 1996. It featured in four Games, most recently at Beijing 2008. In July 2005, an IOC vote removed softball from future Olympic Games. The World Baseball Softball Confederation was established in April 2013 as a joint international governing body for both sports aiming to return to the Olympic program. Softball, for men and women, has been included at the Pan American Games since 1979, although the men’s event was absent in 2007 and 2011. Canada won all seven men’s gold medals from 1979 to 2003, while the Canadian women have accumulated seven Pan Am Games medals (1 gold, 5 silver and 1 bronze) since the sport’s debut.

Although very similar to baseball, softball is different in a few notable areas. The larger ball is yellow and is pitched underhand, there are only seven innings per game and the field is smaller as is the diamond. The baselines of the diamond are 18.29 metres (60 feet) long (9.1m or 30 feet shorter than baseball). The distance from home plate to the pitching rubber is 14.02 metres (46 feet) for men and 13.1 metres (43 feet) for women, compared to 18.43m (60 feet) in baseball.

Danielle Lawrie;

Otherwise, many of the same rules apply: three strikes is an out, four balls is a walk, three outs in an inning, fair hits must land inside the baseline.


Men and Women

The tournament begins with a preliminary round robin amongst all qualified teams. The top four teams advance to the semifinals. The teams ranked 1-2 face off for a direct berth in the gold medal game. The teams ranked 3-4 play in the other semifinal, with the winner advancing to play the loser of the 1-2 game. The winner of that game moves onto the gold medal game while the loser wins the bronze medal.

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History will be made in 2016 when Rio de Janeiro, Brazil hosts the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, marking the first time that a South American country will welcome the world to an Olympic Games. It is also just the third time that the Games will be held in the southern hemisphere, following Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000.


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