OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- USA Softball will take the first steps in defending its Olympic gold medal by hosting the nations top 60 players at the ARCO Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA, May 30-June 3. These sixty players will be competing for spots on two 16-player squads that will compete during the summer of 2001.

These two teams designated as USA Blue and USA Red, will kick off the 2001 season by competing in the inaugural USA Softball Shootout, a series of exhibition games between the two teams on the West Coast. The USA Softball Shootout begins with a double-header June 8th in Portland, OR and continues on to Spokane, WA (June 10), Sacramento, CA (June 14) and Los Angeles, CA (June 16 and 17). The game scheduled for June 17 will take place at Easton Stadium on the campus of UCLA versus a team from the WPSL (Women's Pro Softball League) and will be televised "Live" by ESPN.

At the conclusion of the USA Softball Shootout, one team will advance to the play in the U.S. Cup, June 20-24 in Honolulu, HI, while the other team begins preparation for the Pan Am Qualifier, July 17-28 in Maracay, Venezuela.

"We must begin now preparing our athletes for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece," said ASA Executive Director Ron Radigonda. "The USA Softball Shootout will give fans an opportunity to see some of our former and future Olympians as they prepare for the U.S. Cup, the Canada Cup and the Pan-Am Qualifier."

The U.S. Cup will feature the first rematch of the gold (USA), silver (Japan) and bronze (Australia) medalists from the 2000 Olympic Games.

Despite a team record three-game losing streak during the round-robin portion of the Olympic Games, the USA managed to battle back and defeat China, Australia and Japan -- three teams that had beaten it earlier in the competition -- to repeat as the Olympic gold medalist. Japan, which broke the USA's 112-game win streak, battled the USA into extra innings in the gold medal game before an eighth inning error by the Japan leftfielder gave the USA a 2-1 victory and its second consecutive Olympic gold medal.

"The level of competition at this event will be awesome. The world has shown that it is committed to having elite caliber softball teams, but we plan to show that the USA will field the world's best softball team."

Following the U.S. Cup, the USA Softball teams will travel to Vancouver, Canada, June 30-July 8, for the 2001 Canada Cup. The USA Gold team captured its first Canada Cup title in 1999 against some of the world's top competition, while USA Blue finished third among the world's elite.

The USA will wrap-up its season July 28-August 5 at the Pan Am Games Qualifier in Maracay, Venezuela. The USA has qualified as the top seed for every Pan Am Games since 1979 and has won five of the six Pan Am gold medals including the past four consecutive.

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