When Jennie Finch heard the news that the International Olympic Committee had denied softball’s bid to go back to the Games, she was in the middle of a camp with dozens of young women who loved the game.
“I was devastated, crushed once again,” she told ThePostGame in a phone interview Monday morning. “I think we all had our hopes high and we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road.”
The IOC's decision to retain wrestling came at the expense of squash and the combined campaign from softball and baseball, which were eliminated from the Olympic slate after 2008.
Earlier this year, the IOC stunned the sports world when it announced it was cutting wrestling after the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. But the sport put together a worldwide effort and numerous changes involving adding more women's participation, changing the rules and more to make it more appealing to the committee.
Softball and baseball have made similar measures in the competition against the other sports for the final spot in the 2020 and 2024 Games. Finch pointed to softball’s ever-growing participation numbers, high-profile championships and tournaments and growing exposure on sports channels like ESPN.
"Our sport belongs there and our ratings and the rankings that they vote on prove that we do belong there," Finch said. "So I hope that we never lose hope and just keep the amount of hope we have this weekend -- it is going to be tough we're going to keep toughing keep pushing."
Wrestling drew 49 votes; baseball-softball, 24; and squash, 22 in the final vote Sunday, the Washington Post reported. The motives to keep wrestling and add the other two sports were incredibly similar and their motives the same: The chance for a gold medal boosts the popularity of a sport and casts the dreams for many participants.
For Finch, who herself won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and a silver at the 2008, a spot back in the Games would give the millions of girls who play softball something big to dream for.
After the big blow, she’s trying to focus on the progress that the sport is making, at least domestically.
"Although it is disappointing that softball was not reinstated into the Olympics, we are going to continue to keep growing the sport," she added in a statement. "I’m proud of the progress and momentum softball continues to have. International play remains important. The National Pro Fastpitch league and other professional leagues around the world are increasingly popular.
"College softball each year reaches new levels of interest. I am glad to be able to support those that support my sport and women’s sports as a whole, which is why I serve on the Advisory Board for the Capital One Cup, which recognizes the top women’s NCAA athletics programs on a footing equal with the men’s programs."