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Sports Words Monthly
November 2001
Vocabulary from the sporting news.
  Softball pitch
Women's fast-pitch softball is making its second appearance at the Olympics. BBC Sport's Jonathon Moore travelled to Sydney's Olympic Softball Centre to watch new favourites Japan in action.

Blacktown may be one of the more isolated Olympic venues - but it failed to keep the fans away for Australia's make-or-break clash against Japan.

Somewhat surprisingly for those who are new to it, softball remains one of the most popular world-wide sports - in terms of participation. According to the International Softball Federation, there are over 50 million registered players. Oh, and the ball isn't soft.

There are four different types of the game, though only one is played at the Olympics: women's fast-pitch.

It resembles baseball in virtually every sense - except that the pitcher can only throw the ball under-arm. Japanese pitcher Mariko Masubuchi was notching up speeds of close to 70mph on Tuesday and although that's around 20mph less than in Major League baseball, softball pitchers throw 20 feet closer to the batter.

Japan's 1-0 victory places them in pole position for a medal. Their draw has not been kind - but they have now defeated all three of the major players - China, the USA and Australia.

The top four teams from the round-robin tournament progress through to the knockout stages and though Japan have yet to lose, coach Taeko Utsugi said she had no intention of allowing her team to ease up.

The WordsListen
if a situation is make or break it is the last chance to achieve something

taking part in

looks like

almost, nearly


the person who throws the ball

  notching up speeds
achieving speeds
  pole position
the best chance of winning
    round-robin tournament
competition in which all the teams plays each other
    knockout stages
the parts of a competition before the final during which teams are eliminated
  to ease up
to relax and stop playing to the highest level possible
  Read the story in full  

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