For Monica Abbott, 2020 Olympics Offers Chance At Redemption
At 23 years old, Monica Abbott left the 2008 Olympics with a silver medal around her neck and mixed emotions.
For Abbott, the Beijing Games were bittersweet. As the youngest player on the U.S. national softball team that year, she had fulfilled her lifelong dream of pitching in the Olympics, but was left unsatisfied after Japan defeated her American squad in the gold-medal game.
"After we lost in 2008, it was bittersweet," Abbott, a left-handed pitcher for Team USA, told Softball America. "I had a great Olympic experience. At the same time, not winning, we were so disappointed and heartbroken and depressed."
More than a decade following her first experience at the Summer Games, Abbott will have another shot at a gold medal in July, since softball is back in the Olympic program for the first time since 2008. She and the rest of Team USA—which includes her 2008 Olympic teammate and fellow pitcher Cat Osterman—will attempt to reclaim the Olympic gold medal that belonged to the United States in softball in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
And if you ask Abbott, she likes her team's chances at the Tokyo Games next summer.
"We have so many talented athletes and the possibility with this team, I think, is better than I ever thought it could be," she said. "There’s so much opportunity with the way our defense can be run, our offense can be run and the pitching staff alone. I’m really excited to see how we gel together and unite."
This time around, however, Abbott says she will do things differently.
"I think being able to enjoy the process is going to be really important and just being able to stay in the moment," stated Abbott. "In 2008, I remember just trying to think through any possible thing that could happen. Will you be ready for the weather? What if you don’t like this food? What if you forget your uniform? What if you only have 10 minutes to warm up? I was thinking of all the different things that could happen and trying to prepare for them."
Now, a seasoned veteran at the international level in softball, as well as in both the American and Japanese professional leagues, Abbott has developed into one of the greatest pitchers that the sport has ever known over the past decade. She is confident that her development, as both a person and a pitcher, will allow her to flourish for Team USA in Tokyo.
"Age and experience are big," said Abbott, who will turn 35 on July 28, which is the same day as the gold-medal game for softball at the 2020 Olympics. "On the team before, everyone was older than me. Everything was fresh and exciting and new. Now, I feel a sense of peace and joy in my heart because I just know these are memories that I’m going to cherish forever."
Team USA head coach Ken Eriksen couldn't agree with Abbott more. He believes the big-game experience that both Abbott and Osterman offer to his team will be invaluable come July.
"The experience that (Osterman) and Monica Abbott lend to the team...will bode well for us in preparation," Eriksen said. "You can only tell the women what a male coach has experienced. But it's really tough for that to be related to what a female player has. So to have those two women on our team right now, what a benefit to what's happening."
Ahead of what is almost guaranteed to be her final Olympics—largely due to the fact that softball is not in the Olympic program for the 2024 Games—Abbott plans on enjoying every step of the journey that is ahead of her.
"At the end of the day, you’re playing the sport that you grew up with," she said. "I don’t have to sit in an office job. I get to do something that I was doing when I was five years old. I feel very blessed to be able to do what I do and I want to play as long as I can. If I can lace up my cleats every day and put on a glove, then I am living my best life."