Fast pitch to China for Abbott

By Steve Ahillen, News Sentinel??

Monica Abbott sees the Olympics as a big dream ... one of which she can hardly wait to be a part.

"I figure on having what they call an Olympic high," she said as she prepared to leave with the U.S. softball team Monday. "It will be kind of like a dream. I hope I can make it slow down but I know it will probably go by way too fast."

Abbott is among a contingent of 14 athletes with area connections headed to Beijing for the XXIX Summer Olympics which start with opening ceremonies Friday and end Aug. 24. They range from 31-year-old decathlete Tom Pappas to swimmer Christine Magnuson, 22, and include three women's basketball players, six track athletes, two swimmers, a baseball player, a diver and one overpowering softball pitcher.

"You always have a kinship to your alma mater," Abbott said. "We keep up with other (UT) sports and how other athletes from UT are doing. We'll meet up and say hi in the (Olympic athletes) village. It's nice to see a familiar face. It's just common ground."

Abbott, arguably the most dominating pitcher in collegiate softball history, is a rookie on a veteran softball team that likely is the best ever assembled, although "rookie" is certainly a misnomer at this stage. She has competed on a 60-game tour which included a stop in Knoxville to play the Lady Vols on April 12. The team finished 59-1, and Abbott went 16-0. She does admit to still getting the rookie treatment.

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