Sara Groenewegen of the University of Minnesota softball team will debut for Softball Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on July 21. At 1 a.m. CT, Canada will face Mexico in their first game, which will be broadcast on either the NBC Sports Network or the NBC Olympic Channel.
According to the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), which utilizes a point system to establish rankings, Canada enters the games as the world's No. 3 softball team. Canada is third, behind Team USA (first) and Japan (second).
Softball will be the first official Olympic sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with Groenewegen's native country guaranteed at least five games. Another important game for Softball Canada will take place on July 22 at 7 p.m. CT, when the Canadians take against Team USA in primetime.
The competition is divided into two phases, the first of which allows each of the six participating teams to play one game against each of the other five teams. After the first round, teams are ranked based on their win-loss record.
Per Twin Cities, Canada has never won an Olympic softball medal. Groenewegen and the Canadians, who are rated third, are determined to change that. The one-year deferral of competition due to the pandemic, she argued, only strengthened the Canadians by allowing players more opportunity to learn about themselves and form bonds.
Sara Groenewegen made history for the Gophers softball team during her illustrious career at the University of Minnesota from 2014 to 2017. She was the first player in school history to win All-American honors three times, the first Big Ten Player of the Year since 1991; she also guided Minnesota to its first national No. 1 rating, among other accomplishments.
She now has her eyes set on achieving international history, four years after her Gophers career ended. On Wednesday morning, 1 a.m. CT, she will lead Team Canada into the Olympic softball competition with a pool game against Mexico.
Groenewegen was a four-time First Team All-Big Ten selection and was named the 2017 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year during his senior season. She ended her career with a 107-21 record, 1,214 career strikeouts, a 1.58 career ERA, and 82 complete games in 797 innings pitched, which was a program high. Groenewegen hit 305 as a pitcher and started 231 games in her career, as per Gopher Sports.
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Sara Groenewegen once became close to death
In July 2018, Sara Groenewegen was in Surrey, British Columbia, with her Canadian colleagues, practicing for the world championships. The team had recently returned from a vacation to California and was only a few days away from competing in its first Olympic qualifying event in Japan.
According to CBC, her insulin pump had failed a few days before; and she had Type 1 diabetes. Groenewegen's blood sugar levels were all over the map, and physicians weren't sure if it was the cause of her problems. Groenewegen's condition was first misdiagnosed, and doctors were on the verge of sending her home.
Groenewegen's teammates and head coach, Mark Smith, stood by and watched her deteriorate. A bladder infection was first diagnosed as the softball pitcher's problem. Antibiotics were given, but they had little effect.
Then she started coughing uncontrollably, leaving her gasping for air. Minute by minute, her body was disintegrating. Groenewegen was in a medically induced coma for ten days in early August 2018, with 15 tubes flowing into her body to keep her alive.
Sara Groenewegen had legionnaires' disease, a rare but life-threatening type of pneumonia. She's not sure how she got it, but she suspects it came from the air conditioning system of one of the California hotels she stayed at. The virus is disseminated most often by bacteria-laden water droplets in the air, as per CBC.
Doctors were able to stabilize her after they understood what it was, but not without some difficult moments. All of this occurred when her team was in Japan, attempting to qualify for the Olympics without one of their best pitchers. Despite everything that happened, Sara Groenewegen never gave up.
She continued to battle for her life as her team fought for their Olympic goal in Japan. She was ultimately roused from her coma after 11 days. She discovered she had lost nearly two weeks of her life without realizing it until she began to read all of her text messages. Her team also missed one of its opportunities to qualify for the Olympics at that time, finishing third in the world championship but needed a top-two finish to qualify for the Games.
The path to recovery began. The initial objective was to stroll along a hospital corridor. She was then allowed out of the hospital early two weeks later due to her quick recovery.
Groenewegen went back to a national team training camp in January 2019, six months after her near-death experience. Those first several weeks at the gym were difficult, but she persevered. Her coach described Groenewegen as adaptable and resilient.
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