Ralph Raymond, the head coach of the first two U.S. Olympic softball teams that earned gold medals, died Tuesday at age 94, according to USA Softball.
Raymond was already considered the greatest coach in softball history before playing a key role in the sport’s Olympic debut in 1996.
He set USA Softball records with a 332-9 record and .974 winning percentage as head coach, including going 72-1 in winning five world championships from 1974 through 1994. He was inducted into the International Softball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Raymond was then a natural choice to be the first U.S. Olympic softball head coach for the Atlanta Games, where softball was played in nearby Columbus, Ga.
“Raymond was pivotal in the popularization of the sport of softball prior to the 1996 Olympic Games,” USA Softball said in a release. “Raymond’s impact on the game will endure due through some of the legends of the game he coached.”
He returned to guide the team through a turbulent Olympics at Sydney 2000. The U.S. bounced back from three straight losses to Australia, China and Japan to beat all three nations in the elimination rounds.
Softball returns to the Olympics in 2020 after being voted off the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games.
But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.
She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.
No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seleswon the 1996 Australian Open.
But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.
Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.
Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.
Russian Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the French Open first round in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, is improved on clay. He won the Italian Open, the last top-level clay event before the French Open, and is the No. 2 seed ahead of Djokovic.
No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.