The Olympic Dream for millions of softball athletes across the globe is back in action for the first time since 2008 as the 2020 USA Softball Olympic Team begins preparation for its fifth Olympic Games appearance.
The 2004 Olympic Games performance by the USA Women’s National Team was the most dominant in softball Olympic history. The U.S. squad, led by Mike Candrea, was considered the best women’s softball team ever assembled and possibly the most dominant Olympic team of any sport.
The Red, White and Blue started the 2004 Games with no hesitation as Jennie Finch led the U.S. to their first victory in a three-inning run rule over Italy. The dominance continued in their second contest, plating 10 runs against Australia for their second consecutive run rule of the Games. Team USA recorded four additional shutout victories to conclude round-robin play and advance to the medal rounds for the third-straight year. The U.S. faced Australia in both of their playoff games. In their first face off, Lisa Fernandez led from the circle and the plate, scoring USA’s first run of the game in the fourth inning. Crystl Bustos, Stacy Nuveman, and Kelly Kretschman added three insurance runs for the U.S., resulting in a 5-0 victory. The Australians were once again unable to quiet the U.S. bats in their final contest of the Games as Bustos pushed two balls over the fence and Nuveman followed with one, earning the U.S. a 5-1 Gold Medal victory.
Team USA went a perfect 9-0 through the Games with eight consecutive shutout victories. The U.S. outscored their opponents 51-1 in their nine-game quest to the Gold and did not allow a run until the sixth inning of their final game. This team proved to be something special, being anointed the “Real Dream Team” by Sports Illustrated, symbolizing the ascension of USA Softball to the top of women’s sports.
Members of the 2004 Olympic Team set 18 Olympic records including the most hits (73), highest team batting average (.343) and highest team slugging percentage (.559). Fernandez set the individual record for batting average (.545) while Bustos set the RBI record (10) and the home run record (5). “They are a ‘special’ group that will go down in history as the most dominant team to ever take the field,” said Head Coach Mike Candrea after the 2004 Olympic Gold Medal victory.
The 2004 USA Women’s National Team is one of ten Olympic teams inducted in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
“The Real Dream Team”
– 2004 Sports Illustrated
Among the 2004 members were 1996 and 2000 Olympic Gold Medalists Lisa Fernandez, Laura Berg, Leah O’Brien-Amico and Lori Harrigan, collecting their third consecutive Gold Medal while 2000 Team USA members Stacy Nuveman and Crystl Bustos earned their second.