Usain Bolt, 1970’s Brazilian soccer team, Tiger Woods, Martina Navratilova, Jackie Robinson, Bob Beamon, Muhammad Ali. All of these athletes were great, but they were more than that: they were athletes who changed the world. Reaching the pinnacle in sport requires skill, dedication, and sustained peak fitness, and relatively few athletes achieve this level.
Brian Salmon for The World Games
Being a transformation athlete is much rarer. It requires character and boundless self-confidence, and only a handful of athletes can reach this stratospheric level. A transformative athlete is one who allows you to see your sport in a completely different light, either through the way they have innovated in their careers or through the way they open up new opportunities for athletes following in their footsteps. American softball player Monika ABOTTwho recently announced her retirement, meets the criteria to be considered an athlete of transformation in both cases.
Unique throwing style
Career stats are impressive in themselves, but they don’t do justice to the impact Abbott has had on the sport. Two softball Olympic finals, four world championships, including the thrilling conclusion of The World Games in Birmingham in 2022, the first perfect match played at the Olympics, and numerous college and professional league records in America and Japan. However, it wasn’t just her competitiveness and game-changing abilities that made her such an outstanding player. She has developed a unique throwing style that enables her to throw the ball incredibly fast; holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest softball field. Her talent made her the first player to receive a million-dollar contract from a professional American softball team, which enabled her to set up her own charitable foundation that offers educational scholarships to promising players.
Abbott is considered by many to be the greatest softball pitcher in history, thanks to her innovative throwing methods. One impossibly long stride, a swirling movement of the arms, and then the ball suddenly flies out at high speed. The result is like being at the end of a hyperactive automaton! Throughout her high school years, she had to figure out how to make the most of her natural talents. She explained: “I think it made me have to figure out how to be more lithe and flexible at a younger age. Because I always grew so fast, there were times when I felt like I was clumsy… but when I finally “grown into my body”, so to speak, my overall athleticism skyrocketed and all the footwork and agility I was doing was not clumsy or clumsy during my growth spurts multiplied the benefits.”
Scholarship Fund Monica Abbott
One of its core values ??is that female athletes should be treated with respect. Her decision to attend the University of Tennessee was based not only on their stellar track and field program, but was also motivated by how well their sports stars were treated. In an interview with the Californian Abbott said of the university, “More importantly to me, they loved their players. I liked how much they focused on women’s sports at this school, and that was very important to me.” She is so grateful for the tremendous life-changing opportunities the sport has given her as a world-class competitor that she has created a scholarship fund to help students pursue their sporting ambitions. An article by The Californian said: “In 2012, Abbott established the A scholarship of $1,000 each – provided by the Community Foundation for Monterey County – is awarded to two athletes who have graduated from high school. Abbott hopes to expand scholarship eligibility as the fund grows.
Her college career was one of athletic excellence, setting all-time throwing records in seven different categories. Her obvious talents caught the attention of the US national team selectors and she was on a plane to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic softball competition. Against the Netherlands, Abbott played the first perfect match in Olympic history where the pitcher prevents the batter from advancing to the bases by throwing too much many loose pitches (walk) or making good contact with the bat (strike).
The Beijing Olympics saw the renewal of one of the sport’s great rivalries: the US and Japan are the dominant forces in softball. Since 2002, they have competed in all major finals of the sport, be it the Olympics, World Championships or World Games. The tournament format in Beijing saw these softball giants meet three times. The abbot dominated the pool game and the semi-final, not allowing any runs. However, in the finals, the Japanese pitcher limited the Americans to only one run, allowing the Asian nation to win the gold medal.
In 2010, Abbott had the opportunity to play for the Toyota Red Terriers in the Japan Softball League. She had some hesitation in accepting the contract due to the long-standing rivalry between the two nations. However, she enthusiastically embraced the opportunity, winning six JSL titles and being named MVP in every winning season aside from 2014. Her successful career in Japan saw Scrap Yard Dawgs of Houston offer Abbott an unprecedented million-dollar contract to play in the US National Pro Fastpitch league . Usually, the star pitcher’s thoughts focused on the impact her mega-contract would have on other players. She told sports channel ESPN, “This represents opportunity for younger players in our game. For me, that’s what I see in this deal. I see opportunities for other athletes, for college girls [to the league], for first graders, for 12-year-olds. I see opportunities for them to be only professional softball players – so they don’t have to have another career, another job. I hope this will only raise the bar in our sport.”
Having achieved everything possible in this sport, there was only one unfinished business left – the Olympic gold medal. The star American pitcher had a belated opportunity as Baseball and Softball were reinstated for the 2020 Games. In Beijing, she was the youngest player on the US team; in the Covid-delayed release, Tokyo was the second oldest. Unfortunately, the pandemic restrictions meant that none of her many fans in Japan and America were able to attend. Equally sad for Abbott, the Tokyo tournament mirrored her experience in Beijing; in a pool match against Japan, she prevented any runs while throwing. However, in the gold medal match, her Japanese counterpart did the same with a strong American batting lineup. In sports, heartbreak and redemption go hand in hand; Nemesis can often be rematched to ensure a distinctly different outcome.
International Final Tournament – TWG 2022
A great figure by all accounts (Abbott is 1.90 m tall) and a great player, Abbott earned a big stage filled with cheering fans at her recent international match. The Softball tournament at The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama, provided such a platform. Haylie McCleney from Birmingham delivered a great hit that allowed Team USA to advance to the finals. As Abbott, McCleney and their teammates took to the field, they were greeted with a mighty roar from the sold-out stands at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Their gold medalists inevitably were Japan! Will it be the US’s turn to triumph at the home games, or will the Asian islanders seize the opportunity to become simultaneous Olympic, World and World Games champions? In the second inning, Jannae Jefferson’s strike through midfield allowed three American batters to score. Japan came back strong, winning two heats in rapid succession. However, it was Abbott’s extensive experience that kept Japan from scoring again, despite several promising chances. Gold to the USA, thanks to which the Softball legend also became the legend of The World Games, and in addition, for the fourth time in his career, the World Champion!
It was a fitting end to a sports career of great importance and impact. Monika recently wrote on her Instagram: “The day has come where I have to step away from the circle and throw balls at over 70 miles an hour. For 20 years I have been fulfilling my dreams, playing softball at the highest level and representing my country. But the day has come where I know I can do more for the game I love off the pitch than on it. It was the most amazing trip .“Her soccer career may be over, but she will continue to contribute to her sport, both as the voice of an athlete on the Softball World Confederation Baseball Players Committee and as a coach, inspiring other girls to follow the same path to greatness. If you like trivia, you may know that the highest mountain in the universe is located on Mars and is called Olympus Mons. So for now, goodbye to Olympic Mon, a true softball giant.
World games is a multi-sport event organized every four years by the International World Games Association, organized with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 2022 World Games took place in Birmingham, Alabama, USA from July 7-17, 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries participated in the games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN in 2025.