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Port Coquitlam Olympian now a coach for Canada’s national softball team

After leading Canada's national softball team to a bronze medal at last summer's Tokyo Olympics, Jenn Salling put her cleats on home plate and said one chapter of her life was over. Now she begins another.

Port Coquitlam’s Jenn Salling isn’t done with softball.

While the two-time Olympian retired from her playing career after winning a bronze medal at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, she’s now a part of the coaching staff for Canada’s national team.

Salling hit .571 at the Tokyo Games, the best of all batters in the six-team tournament. One of those was a successful bunt in the second inning of the bronze medal game that eventually led to her crossing the plate on a hit by teammate Emma Entzminger in Canada’s 3-2 win over Mexico.

The medal was Canada’s first in the sport since it made its Olympic debut in 1996.

After the game, she placed her cleats on home plate at the Yokohama Stadium then shared the photo on her social media feed to announce her retirement as an active player.

“A symbol of letting go and closing this chapter of my life,” she said of her final act.

Salling joined the national team in 2006 and she was among the program’s youngest players when Canada finished fourth at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. But after that, the sport was dropped from subsequent Olympics until it was reinstated for Tokyo.

The hiatus didn’t deter Salling. She played in four Pan American Games, earning one gold medal and three silvers, as well as five women’s world championships. She also played professionally for various teams in the United States and Canada and earned a master’s degree in education and intercollegiate athletic leadership at the University of Washington.

Four years ago, after Salling completed her education, she rededicated herself to earning another shot at an Olympic medal. She based herself at a training centre in Oviedo, Fla., working with a hitting instructor, then stayed there when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in anticipation the public health crisis would blow over by the scheduled start of the Tokyo Olympics in August 2020.

When the Games were delayed for a year, Salling kept honing her batting and defensive skills at her new position, first base. She stayed connected with her national team teammates who were scattered across North America through online meetings and Slack channels as they individually fulfilled tasks assigned to them by their coaches.

In an interview with the Tri-City News in June, Salling said her second Olympic journey represented “another opportunity to write a different story.”

She begins a new chapter begins in the dugout under Kaleigh Rafter, who was named the national team’s head coach last month.

with a file from Kyle Balzer, Tri-City News