Feb. 28, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and current UCLA assistant coach Lisa Fernandez is among the final nominees for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame's Class of 2012, as announced by the United States Olympic Committee.
Fernandez is vying for one of six spots in the individual category. In addition, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team is vying for a team spot in the Hall of Fame.
The public can help select the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame inductees at www.teamusa.org/halloffame. Voters will be allowed to vote once per day, per category, through April 9. Recognizing the ongoing support that fans give U.S. Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls in their training and competition, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame presented by Allstate was one of the first major sports halls of fame to incorporate fan voting into the selection process.
"Being considered for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame is really the pinnacle of my career as a softball player," Fernandez said. "When you think about being an Olympic athlete, you think about winning the Olympic Gold Medal, but to be recognized with a nomination for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame is special and a reflection of everything that I have been blessed to accomplish in the sport. Never in a million years did I think I would be considered for this honor. I am so fortunate to share a nomination with my 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Teammates as well. What we were able to accomplish in Athens was truly unforgettable."
Dubbed the "Real Dream Team" on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team went 9-0 in Athens, a record that included eight consecutive shutouts and four run-rule wins. In total, the Americans outscored opponents 51-1, not allowing an opponent to score until 55 2/3 innings into the tournament when Australia scored in the sixth inning of the Gold Medal Game.
Members of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team set 18 Olympic records in Athens. No U.S. Olympic Team has ever given a more dominant performance with as many team and individual Olympic records broken en route to the Gold Medal. Among the teams records set were the most hits (73), highest team batting average (.343) and highest slugging percentage (.559). Fernandez set the individual record for batting average with .545 while Crystal Bustos' 10 RBI and five home runs were also records.
The U.S. pitching staff, led by Fernandez, had the lowest combined earned run average (.12) in Olympic history. One run is also the fewest runs allowed by a team in Olympic history. And dominant pitching was no fluke in Athens as the team also had a .22 ERA during the "Aiming for Athens" Olympic preparation tour, in which they went 53-0 in 30 cities.
While the team relished in on-the-field triumphs, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team battled off-the-field tragedy. The team wore "SC" on their helmets to honor Sue Candrea, wife of Team USA head coach Mike Candrea, who passed away from a brain aneurysm 10 days before the team left for Greece. Sue was traveling with the team in central Wisconsin on the "Aiming for Athens" tour.
Candrea was named the 2004 USOC Coach of the Year. Other honors garnered by the 2004 U.S. Olympic Softball Team were the 2004 USOC Team of the Year award and the 2004 ESPY for Best Female Olympic Performance. For her individual performance in Athens, Fernandez was a finalist for the 2004 USOC SportsWoman of the Year award.
"Softball is not an individual sport. Throughout my career, I have had amazing teammates, not just at the 2004 Olympic Games but at every event that I have been a part of. They've helped me achieve everything that I have done," Fernandez said. "As a pitcher, I was blessed to have a great defense behind me. I was blessed to have a great offense that could score so many runs. I know that without great teammates, what I did in the circle would not have mattered. I could have thrown no hitters and still lost if I didn't have such a strong team."
Fernandez is part of a rare class of U.S. Olympians who hold three Olympic Gold Medals from three Olympic Games. In 1996, 2000 and 2004, Fernandez led the Americans to the Gold Medal, the only pitcher to appear in three Olympic finales. Most notably, she entered the final game of the 1996 Olympic Games in the sixth inning and earned the save as Team USA defeated China 3-1 for the inaugural softball Olympic Gold Medal. Overall, she achieved 7-2 record in the circle throughout her Olympic career, allowing only 20 hits, seven walks and six runs (four earned) while striking out 93 over 74.2 innings of Olympic play.
While Fernandez is most renowned for her work in the circle, she also recorded 76 at-bats over three Games. Fernandez hit .333 (23-for-76) overall in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens with three doubles, three home runs and 15 runs batted in (RBI) and 13 runs scored.
A rare pitcher/hitter, Fernandez has the distinction of holding four individual Olympic records in addition to those she helped set as a team. In 2000, she struck out 25 Australian batters, a record. She holds the Olympic record for fewest runs allowed. In 2004, she achieved the highest batting average (.545) in Olympic play and hit three doubles, another record.
"It is bittersweet that softball has two nominees for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame when our sport is excluded from the 2012 Olympic Games in London," Fernandez said. "It's unfortunate that today's players will not have the same chance to compete that I did. The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame is our opportunity to leave a legacy in the Olympic arena until we get softball back in the Games. It was so special to play in the Olympics. My teammates and I appreciated the opportunity to represent our country on that stage. To have a place in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, that would be incredible. That's where you leave your mark. There is nothing more special than being an Olympian and being in the Hall of Fame would truly be an honor."
No softball athletes are currently inducted into the U.s. Olympic Hall of Fame.