By Emily Goddard

Natalie Ward 100113January 10 - Four-time Olympic medallists Natalie Ward and Melanie Roche have been inducted into the Australian Softball Hall of Fame during a special ceremony at the Edebone-Weber Shield tournament at the Blacktown International Sportspark.

Both athletes, from New South Wales, represented Australia in all four Olympic competitions that softball was on the programme, winning a medal at each Games – bronze at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008, and silver at Athens 2004.

Up until London 2012, Ward (pictured top) and Roche, along with softball teammate Tanya Harding, were the only women in Australian sporting history to win a medal at four consecutive Olympics.

Shortstop Ward is the most capped player in Australian softball history, being the first woman to play more than 400 games for the country.

The 37-year-old represented the Australian Open women's team, Aussie Spirit, from 1994 until 2008, playing 429 games for her country and, in addition to the four Olympic Games, competed in four World Championships in 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006.

She also captained the team from 2005 to 2008, including at the 2006 World Championships and Beijing 2008.

Melanie Roche 100112Melanie Roche pitched for Australia for over 20 years

World-renowned pitcher Roche, 42, has an international softball career dating back as far as 1987 when she competed in the International Softball Federation's (ISF) third Junior Women's World Championship.

She represented Aussie Sprint for 20 years, from 1988 to 2008, playing 229 time, as well as competing in the Japanese and Italian Leagues.

She also competed in four World Championships in 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2006 and is ranked in the top 20 of all time for Australian appearances.

Both retired from international competition in August 2008 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) controversially removed softball from the Olympic programme.

However, the sport is currently bidding, as part of a joint campaign with baseball, to make it back into the Olympics for the 2020 Games.

It is up against climbing, karate, roller sport, wakeboard and wushu, with the winning sport to be announced in September at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires.

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