Team Canada won the women’s division of the Canada Cup last year at Softball City. (File photo)

Olympic softball qualifier to be held in B.C.

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

The City of Surrey will play host to the softball Olympic qualifier tournament this year.

Last August, Surrey was chosen by Softball Canada as the country’s bid city for the 2019 Americans qualifier – which will determine two of six berths for the women’s softball tournament at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) announced on Twitter Sunday that the 2019 Americas qualifier tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 in the city.

Canada Cup chairman Greg Timm told Peace Arch News Sunday that Canada was up against Mexico and Colombia to host the tournament, but Canada was selected despite the fact that two of the competing countries had more money on the table.

“They had lots of money, far more than we have,” Timm said. “I think this is an acknowledgement to the fact that in this town, our volunteers are good organizers. The world association has a lot of trust that we will do what we say and we will comply with everything we bid on.”

Timm said that trust played a major role in the decision.

“We’ve become internationally known to be a great host. Sometimes those are the stories that aren’t told about Surrey, quite honestly. We have a great reputation for hosting teams fairly. We don’t cook the books here, we don’t cheat, we don’t manipulate results, umpires are fair, and the truth happens in our tournament.

“The best team wins, and that’s what sport is about.”

Softball is returning to the Olympics after being discontinued as a medal sport since 2008.

The return of softball to the Olympics, Timm said, is huge.

“It is an amateur sport, so money matters,” Timm said. “When you’re an Olympic sport, you get government funding, sponsorship funding. When you’re a non-Olympic sport, you’re not recognized, really, at the national level,” he said.

SEE RELATED: Surrey chosen as Canadian bid city for Olympic softball qualifier

The Europe-Africa qualifier tournament is to be held in the Netherlands July 23-28 and the Asia-Oceania qualifier tournament is to be held in China Sept. 24-29.

As the host country, Japan is guaranteed a spot in the 2020 games, and the United States has secured a spot after winning the world championships.

Currently, Canada is ranked third in the world for women’s softball, and the first- and second-place finishers of the 2019 Americans qualifier tournament will play in the 2020 Tokyo games.

“It’s a big deal for our sport. I don’t know, can you name another summer Olympic sport where Canada is ranked that high?” Timm said.

“We think it’s the only Olympic qualifier, of any sport, on Canadian soil this year.”

The WBSC’s bid-city announcement had been twice-delayed since Surrey was chosen as Canada’s entry late last summer. Originally, Timm told PAN that they expected to hear from the WBSC no later than mid-September. Due to delays within the WBSC, that deadline was then pushed until late November, and then delayed again until Sunday, one day after the sports organization wrapped up meetings in Rome.

Timm agreed that the qualifier tournament is to be the most significant softball tournament in Surrey’s history.

“We held the world championships in 2016 and we shaped that to be all inclusive. We had countries that we knew weren’t going to win, but could participate. This has a lot more significance for Canada. This is a really important event,” he said.

Timm said 16 countries from the Caribbean region, South America, North America and Central America will be invited.

“We are really excited about the chance to host this Olympic Qualifier, we thank the WBSC for the opportunity” said Softball Canada President Kevin Quinn in a news release.

National team members, too, were excited with the weekend announcement.

Canadian pitcher Danielle Lawrie-Locke – a former White Rock Renegades star – tweeted Sunday that she was “so excited to play in front of our HOME crowd! Especially my two little girls.”

Surrey’s Holly Speers – another national team member – was also excited.

“Playing on home soil for the Olympic qualifier… it doesn’t get much better than that,” she tweeted.

Softball Canada announced Surrey as its city-of-choice for its bid in August, highlighting the experience that the organizing committee – headed up by Timm – has in hosting previous international tournaments.

“I can tell you today that the guys in Ottawa are popping champagne corks,” Timm said.

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