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Texas ex Cat Osterman ‘very excited’ to be back on Olympic stage after 13-year absence

United States pitcher Cat Osterman reacts after a strikeout during the team's 2-0 win over Mexico Saturday at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Yokohama, Japan. Osterman allowed one hit as the U.S. went to 3-0 in the tournament.

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Competing in her third Olympics, veteran pitcher Cat Osterman is motivated to help USA Softball reclaim its spot atop the medal stand and win its fourth Olympic gold medal. But the opportunity to pitch at another Olympics never seemed like a possibility after a 13-year hiatus.  

Women’s softball was eliminated from the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games. At the 2008 Olympics, Osterman was in the pitcher’s circle when the U.S. was stunned by Japan in the gold-medal contest. Osterman and the U.S. had to settle for silver in what was the first time the Americans failed to win a gold since softball’s Olympic debut in 1996.

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Osterman continued her pro softball career before retiring in 2015. She decided to come back after softball was voted back into the Olympics in August 2016.

Thirteen years after what figured to be her final Olympics, Osterman, 38, is leading the U.S. softball team back to prominence.

“I’m very exciting to have the opportunity to be on this Olympic stage again especially after 2008 because it was a bitter ending,” Osterman said after striking out four and only allowing one hit in USA’s 2-0 win against Mexico. The Americans improved to 3-0. “But that’s not what’s driving me every day.”

Despite having a bitter taste from the 2008 Olympics, Osterman is not out to avenge her only Olympic loss. She stated the main reasons she opted to come back were to help Team USA win another softball gold medal and because of coach Ken Eriksen.

“The unfinished business didn’t bring me back to this team. Coach Eriksen brought me back to this team. Any other coach and I’m not playing on this team. I’m here because coach (Ken) Eriksen is instrumental in my career. I felt it was only right to end my career in a USA softball uniform under his helm,” Osterman said. “This is a supportive group and I’m not here for selfish reasons. I’m here so they can win a gold medal. I already have one, but I want to see how they feel and how they react after we are able to possibly do that.”

More:Who are the University of Texas athletes competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics?

Osterman credited Eriksen for initially putting the idea in her head about a potential return to the field. Eriksen approached Osterman about being in the USA softball’s coaching pool in 2016. But Osterman wasn’t selected in the pool.

The rejection sparked a major comeback for the two-time Olympic medalist.

United States' Cat Osterman reacts after an out during a 2-0 win over Mexico at the 2020 Summer Olympics Saturday in Yokohama, Japan. The Texas ex pitched six innings to get the victory.

“When I wasn’t selected in the coach pool in 2016, I wasn’t upset,” Osterman explained. “I had to do a gut check. I said, ‘If I’m not upset about being selected, why am I even in the coaching pool? And if I don’t want to be in the coaching pool, why is that?’ When I had conversations with (former USA softball player) Kelly Kretschman, who’s actually been helping us out, it boiled down to I felt like I was still good enough to throw. She then said, ‘Why don’t you go throw?’ Once the idea was kind of in my head, my family was fully on board.”

Osterman’s father, Gary, and those close to her had actually been on board for a while.

“My dad was like, ‘I told you should’ve done this the whole time.’ I had a bunch of I told you so’s, but it was a gut check to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons. Thankfully I have coaches, teammates and best friends that know me a little bit better than I do and put the idea in my head and I ran with it,” Osterman said.

Osterman’s decision to come out of retirement is working out just fine. The University of Texas product is 2-0 in two starts at the Tokyo Olympics and hasn’t allowed a run in both outings. She has the Americans looking like a favorite to reach the gold medal game again – which coach wind up being a rematch with Japan.

But Eriksen instructed Osterman and her teammates to take things one game at a time, not worry about past performances or think about revenge against Japan. 

“It’s the toughest competition that we are going to face, ever. The tournament that the Tokyo Olympics has put on is a phenomenal tournament. I think when you start taking a look at the medals from the past, you just have to say that is in the past,” Eriksen said. “The one thing this group has done, and I’ve asked them to do…I asked them to not worry about yesterday. All I want them to do is worry about today. We are trying to enjoy the moment.”

It’s a moment Osterman never thought she’d have again. But thanks to softball’s return to the Olympics, to Eriksen, and to her family and friends, Osterman is back on the Olympic stage and performing like she never left.