Softball great Cat Osterman retires — this time for good — at 38

United States v Japan - Softball - Olympics: Day 4
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Six years after first retiring from playing competitive softball, Cat Osterman has retired once again — and this time it appears to be for good.

One of the sport’s greatest players, Osterman wraps an unforgettable chapter (well, chapters) with three Olympic medals, two world titles, three Pan American Games gold medals, four National Pro Fastpitch championships, an Athletes Unlimited championship, three USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year awards and a national team career that spanned an astounding 18 years.

Unlike in 2015, when the Chicago Bandits beat Osterman’s USSSA Pride 1-0 in the NPF final, this time she went out on a high note.

The 38-year-old finished the Athletes Unlimited season helping Team Chidester to a 3-1 win over Team Ocasio late Monday night. Osterman pitched 6.2 innings, striking out six, walking one and allowing one unearned run in her career finale.

“This is the start of a new chapter for one of the greatest competitors, pitchers, representatives of softball, and one of the greatest people to ever wear the USA uniform,” U.S. head coach Ken Eriksen said in a USA Softball statement. “Cat’s career has had an impact on the way the game has been viewed by both women and men. She has left an indelible mark on the game as well as on many people across the country. I have been one of the luckiest people to have been around her all these years while witnessing her historic career.”

The second-best pitcher in the league this season, she played her final game with several of her Tokyo Olympic teammates on the field: Amanda Chidester and Dejah Mulipola on her side, and Haylie McCleneyKelsey StewartJanie Reed and Olympic alternate Hannah Flippen opposing.

In the second stint of her career, Osterman was the inaugural Athletes Unlimited champion in 2020 and placed fifth this season. Only one athlete, Chidester, in the top-25 comes within seven years of Osterman’s age; she has 10-15 years on most players, not that her age ever shows on the mound.

“I think the fact that it’s been proven now that women can continue to play this game well beyond the age of 30, well beyond 35, I hope I see some of these players playing when they’re 35, 36, 38,” Osterman told Athletes Unlimited over the weekend.

“If somebody wants to go into their 40s like Kelly Kretschman, by all means, go right ahead. I have all the tricks in the trade if they want to learn how to take care of their bodies and everything else. It’s truly humbling, I guess, or exciting to hear people say that because that’s not what the point of un-retirement was. But if that motivates people to continue to play well into 30s to 40s, I’ll take it because someone had to do it first, I guess.”

Osterman’s first stint started off when she set records as a Texas Longhorn freshman that still stand today. Her stellar college career ended with school records in eight categories, all of which remain in tact. Fifteen years after graduating, Osterman still holds the NCAA Division I strikeout ratio record and is second in strikeouts, WHIP and perfect games.

She was named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in 2003, 2005 and 2006 (she redshirted in 2004) and remains the only player to earn the honor more than twice. She also earned the Honda award for softball in 2005 and 2006, and ESPYs in those two years.

Osterman joined the national team in 2003 and played for the red, white and blue every year until 2010, when she first retired from national team play knowing that softball had been removed from the Olympic program following 2008.

In that stretch, she helped the U.S. win gold at the 2003 Pan American Games, 2004 Olympic Games, 2006 World Cup of Softball, 2006 World Championships, 2007 World Cup of Softball, 2007 Pan American Games, 2009 World Cup of Softball, 2010 World Cup of Softball and 2010 World Championships, plus silver at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Osterman was the youngest U.S. player in Athens in 2004 at 21 years old and led the team, which included fellow legendary pitchers Jennie Finch and Lori Harrigan, with 23 strikeouts.

Four years later in Beijing, she was still one of the six youngest players on a 15-member team and continued to dominate with 33 strikeouts, including striking out 13 in a no-hitter against eventual bronze medalist Australia; it was the U.S.’ second no-hitter in Olympic history.

The U.S. lost the gold-medal game to Japan, 3-1, for the first Olympic loss of Osterman’s career and the team’s first since 2000, following a 22-game Olympic win streak. It was the first time a team other than the U.S. had won gold in Olympic history.

Osterman continued with the national team for the next two seasons, and the NPF for five more after that.

She was the No. 1 NPF draft in 2007 and in her nine-year professional career playing for the Rockford Thunder and USSSA Pride, she amassed 1,260 strikeouts, four season titles and was named to the All-NPF team six times.

She played her then-final game Aug. 17, 2015. The Pride retired No. 8 in her honor in 2017.

Osterman married Joey Ashley and became stepmother to Bracken in 2016 and spent several years as associate head coach at Texas State.

With the 2016 news that softball would rejoin the Olympics in 2020, Osterman announced her change of heart in 2018. She tried out for – and made – the national team in 2019 with a strong desire to avenge the 2008 loss that ended her Olympic career.

In her first season playing for the U.S. in nine years, it was like Osterman had never left. She had seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings and a 0.00 ERA en route to Japan Cup gold. At the Pan American Games, where she had last played 12 years prior, she finished with a 2.25 ERA and had 18 strikeouts in 9.1 innings pitched.

She was named to the Olympic team in October of that year.

“They were in the mindset of, yes I’m here and I’m still competing, there’s nothing guaranteed whatsoever; they never let their elite status in the softball world ever be a factor,” coach Eriksen said of Osterman and Monica Abbott, a fellow pitcher on the 2008 Olympic team who came out of national team retirement in 2018, at the time. “They just never did. They checked their ego at the door and just continued to play ball.”

The pandemic delayed her final Olympic Games by a year but that didn’t deter Osterman – or any player on the U.S. squad – from waiting.

This summer, she was the oldest U.S. player in Tokyo by over two years (and was six years older than the oldest first-time Olympian). Among the six countries competing, Osterman was the fifth-oldest player and one of just five players who had also competed in Athens 17 years prior.

While Abbott led the team, Osterman had 15 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.

Despite having won the last two world championships over Japan and defeating the host nation one day before the Olympic gold-medal game, the U.S. again fell to its longtime rival and settled for Olympic silver, this time 2-0.

“Obviously it’s a heartbreak to not come home with the gold, but at the same time you have a silver medal,” Osterman said after the game. “How many people would give for that? So, learn from it but also just accept where you are in the present moment. To all the little girls out there, keep dreaming the dream.”

The result made her the oldest Olympic softball silver medalist, third-oldest softball medalist in Tokyo and one of only seven Americans with three or more Olympic medals in the sport. She and Abbott are the only two-time silver medalists in the sport.

Softball has already been left out of the Paris 2024 Games, meaning the next chance for any softball player to compete in the Olympics is in seven years in Los Angeles and making Osterman’s decision to retire for one final time an easy one.

In a letter to the sport posted to her Instagram on Tuesday morning, Osterman wrote:

“Our tango on the field has ended, but I won’t be too far away. I’ll share all you’ve taught me with anyone and everyone. I’ll help others love you the way I have, and I’ll be cheering loudly as you grow and give my peers continuous challenges and successes.

“For the last time as an athlete, I say goodbye to you.”

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Mikaela Shiffrin finishes World Cup with one more win, two more records and a revelation


Mikaela Shiffrin finished a season defined by records with two more.

Shiffrin won the World Cup Finals giant slalom on the final day of the campaign, breaking her ties for the most career women’s giant slalom wins and most career podiums across all women’s World Cup races.

Shiffrin earned her record-extending 88th career World Cup victory, prevailing by six hundredths over Thea Louise Stjernesund of Norway combining times from two runs in Andorra on Sunday.

An encore of Shiffrin’s record-breaking 87th World Cup win airs on NBC next Sunday from 12-1 p.m. ET.


She won her 21st career GS, breaking her tie for the most all-time on the women’s World Cup with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s.

She made her 138th career World Cup podium across all events, breaking her tie for the most all-time on the women’s World Cup with Lindsey Vonn. Shiffrin earned her 138th podium in her 249th start, meaning she has finished in the top three in 55 percent of her World Cup races dating to her debut at age 15 in 2011.

Earlier this season, Shiffrin passed Vonn and then Ingemar Stenmark, a Swede of the 1970s and ’80s, for the most career Alpine skiing World Cup victories. She won 14 times from November through March, her second-best season after her record 17-win campaign of 2018-19.

In those years in between, Shiffrin endured the most difficult times of her life, was supplanted as the world’s top slalom skier and questioned her skiing like never before.

On Saturday afternoon, Shiffrin was asked what made the difference this fall and winter. There were multiple factors. She detailed one important one.

“I had a lot of problems with my memory,” she said in a press conference. “Not this season, so much, but last season and the season before that. I couldn’t remember courses. And when I was kind of going through this, I couldn’t keep mental energy for the second runs.”

Pre-race course inspection and the ability to retain that knowledge for a minute-long run over an hour later is integral to success in ski racing. Shiffrin is so meticulous and methodical in her training, historically prioritizing it over racing in her junior days, that inspection would seem to fit into her all-world preparation.

She didn’t understand how she lost that ability until she began working with a new sports psychologist last summer.

“That was a little bit like less focus on sports psychology and more focus on, like, psychology psychology and a little bit more grief counseling style,” she said. “Explaining what was actually going on in my brain, like chemical changes in the brain because of trauma. Not just grief, but actually the traumatic experience itself of knowing what happened to my dad, seeing him in the hospital, touching him after he was dead. Those are things that you can’t get out of your head. It had an impact. Clearly, it still does.”

Shiffrin had a “weird a-ha moment” after her first course inspection this season in November in Finland.

“I didn’t take that long to inspect, and I remembered the whole course,” she said. “Oh my gosh, I was like coming out of a cloud that I had been in for over two years.”

What followed was a win, of course, and a season that approached Shiffrin’s unrivaled 2018-19. Fourteen wins in 31 World Cup starts, her busiest season ever, and bagging the season titles in the overall, slalom and GS in runaways.

“After last season, I didn’t feel like I could get to a level with my skiing again where it was actually contending for the slalom globe,” she said. “And GS, I actually had a little bit more hope for, but then at the beginning of the season, I kind of counted myself out.

“I feel like my highest level of skiing has been higher than the previous couple of seasons, maybe higher than my whole career. My average level of skiing has been also higher than previous seasons, and my lowest level of skiing has also been higher.”

There are other reasons for the revival of dominance, though Shiffrin was also the world’s best skier last season (Olympics aside). She went out of her way on Saturday afternoon to credit her head coach of seven years, Mike Day, who left the team during the world championships after he was told he would not be retained for next season.

“He is as much a part of the success this entire season as he’s ever been,” said Shiffrin, who parted with Day to bring aboard Karin Harjo, the first woman to be her head coach as a pro.

Shiffrin’s greatest success this season began around the time she watched a a mid-December chairlift interview between retired Liechtenstein skier Tina Weirather and Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top downhiller. Goggia spoke about her disdain for mediocrity.

“Ever since then, pretty much every time I put on my skis, I’m like, ‘OK, don’t be mediocre today,’” Shiffrin said in January.

During the highest highs of this season, Shiffrin felt like she did in 2018-19.

“It is mind-boggling to me to be in a position again where I got to feel that kind of momentum through a season because after that [2018-19] season, I was like, this is never going to happen again, and my best days of my career are really behind me, which it was kind of sad to feel that at this point four years ago,” said Shiffrin, who turned 28 years old last week. “This season, if anything, it just proved that, take 17 wins [from 2018-19] aside or the records or all those things, it’s still possible to feel that kind of momentum.”

After one last victory Sunday, Shiffrin sat in the winner’s chair with another crystal globe and took questions from an interviewer. It was her boyfriend, Norwegian Alpine skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

“Excited to come back and do it again next year,” she replied to one question.

“Yeah,” he wittily replied. “You will.”

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Russia ban runs through Olympic gymnastics team qualifying deadline

Russia Gymnastics

Russia’s ban from international sport extended long enough that, as rules stand, its gymnasts cannot qualify to defend Olympic men’s and women’s team titles at the 2024 Paris Games, even if they are reinstated to compete elsewhere before the Games start.

Should the ban be lifted in time, they can still qualify for the Paris Games to compete in individual events.

Gymnasts from Russia, and other European nations not already qualified, need to compete at next month’s European Championships to stay on the path toward Olympic qualification in the men’s and women’s team events.

Earlier this month, the European Gymnastics Federation was asked by what date must bans on Russian athletes be lifted for them to be eligible to compete at the European Championships.

“According to our rules, changes can be made until the draw,” the federation’s head of media wrote in a March 8 email.

The draw for the European Championships was held Tuesday. Russian gymnasts, who are still banned from international competition for the war in Ukraine, were not included in the draw.

The 2024 Olympic team event fields will be filled by the top finishers at this fall’s world championships, plus the medalists from last year’s worlds. Teams can only qualify for worlds via continental championships, such as the European Championships, or the previous year’s world championships.

The International Gymnastics Federation, whose Olympic qualifying rules were published by the IOC last April, was asked if there is any other way that gymnasts from Russia could qualify for the Olympic team events. It responded by forwarding a March 3 press release that stated that Russia and Belarus gymnasts remain banned “until further notice.”

Russia’s gymnastics federation has not responded to a Monday morning request for comment.

Last December, the IOC said it planned to explore a possibility that Russian and Belarusian athletes could enter Asian competitions if and when they are reinstated. There have been no further updates on that front. The Asian Gymnastics Championships are in June.

In Tokyo, Russian women, competing as the Russian Olympic Committee rather than Russia due to the nation’s doping violations, won the team title over the heavily favored U.S. after Simone Biles withdrew after her opening vault with the twisties. It marked the first Olympic women’s team title for Russian gymnasts since the Soviet Union broke up.

At last year’s worlds, the U.S. won the women’s team title in the absence of the banned Russians.

Russian men won the Tokyo Olympic team title by 103 thousandths of a point over Japan, their first gold in the event since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

China won last year’s world men’s team title over Japan and Great Britain.

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