SURREY, B.C. — A lot has happened in the 10 years since softball was last an Olympic sport.
Danielle Lawrie graduated university, got married, had two daughters and retired from playing the game she loves. Now softball is back for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and so is the 31-year-old pitcher.
She's once again picked up her pink glove for Team Canada, working toward a different result than the gutting fourth-place finish she experienced at the Beijing games in 2008.
"Obviously, if it weren't back in the Olympics, I don't think it's something I would pursue," Lawrie said. "But I wanted to create a different memory than I had in '08 and try to potentially help a team get there. And I couldn't be more excited."
The two-time NCAA softball player of the year was watching the World Cup of Softball last summer, just after having her second child, when she began seriously considering playing again.
Soon Lawrie was back training at the University of Washington, her alma mater. Her body was bruised in the first few weeks, but her intensely competitive spirit was very much alive.
Getting Lawrie back on the team required some co-ordination to make sure she wasn't missing out on family commitments. She travelled to California and Japan earlier this year before taking a break to spend time at home. Now she's back with her teammates for the rest of the summer.
Lawrie said leaving four-year-old Madison and one-year-old Audrey with her husband isn't always easy, but it is healthy, and life with two young kids is tough.
"When I step in (the pitching) circle, really that's the only time I don't think about how hard my life is," said the Langley, B.C., native and older sister of former Blue Jays second baseman Brett Lawrie. "And it's refreshing. And it really makes me appreciate the game more than I ever have."
The veteran softball star has injected a spark of intensity into the lineup, said Team Canada's head coach, Mark Smith.
"Danielle's always been a world-class performer and when you bring someone like that back to your lineup, it makes a difference in everybody's attitude," Smith said.
"When she steps on the field she means business. And that's exactly how it has to be at this level."
Lawrie is one of three Olympic veterans on Team Canada's current 20-woman roster, and they've all taken on mentorship roles.
The seasoned stars are working with some of the younger girls to help them understand that the team's goals and Olympic trajectory are a big deal, said infielder Jennifer Salling.
"Your performance is personal. If you're not upset about a bad performance, then we kind of have an issue here," said the 31-year-old Burnaby, B.C., native.
"It's not just about wearing the Maple Leaf and wearing Canada across your chest. You've got to represent it every single day in how you act and how you roll, how you prepare to win."
Salling was also on the 2008 team and last year had to make a decision about whether or not she wanted to chase her Olympic dream again.
"It is a full-time job and it is your every day," she said. "It takes every ounce of you like a normal job would. So I had to make the decision to do it full time."
Emma Entzminger, one of Team Canada's younger members, is glad she did. The 22-year-old said it's amazing to have role models like Salling and Lawrie so close by.
"They have so much to offer and so much knowledge. It's incredible," said Entzminger, who plays third base like Salling.
"Every day I'm trying to pick (Salling's) brain and learn something new."
The team's rising stars bring Lawrie back to her experience at the 2008 Olympics.
"Now I can help these women, not coach them, but help them in ways that maybe I didn't get helped when I wanted to back in the day," she said.
A lot has changed since Beijing, Lawrie said, including her attitude. She believes she's more coachable now, and asks those around her what she can do to make the team better.
"I'm taking time away from so many other things, so I only want to be the best that I can. So just tell me. Tell me what it is that you need from me and how I can help you," she said.
At the end of the day, Lawrie wants to win and show her daughters that the world is full of possibilities.
"I want my kids to feel powerful and like they can do anything," she said, nothing that she's watched other female athletes come back to sport after having children.
"Why not me? Why not be that influence for my girls in 10 years to look back and be like, 'Holy crap, look what she was able to do.' It means nothing to them now, but it will."
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Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press