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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 12:43 GMT
Team GB target Beijing berth
Mike Nickeas of Team GB
Team GB catcher Mike Nickeas is on the books of the New York Mets
Team GB has one last chance to qualify for an Olympic baseball competition before the sport is eliminated from the Games.

In 2005, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to drop baseball and its close cousin softball.

Beijing, therefore, represents the last opportunity for players outside top baseball nations to compete on a world stage.

Great Britain has never been represented in Olympic baseball contests, but Team GB does have a chance of making it to Beijing.

An impressive performance at the European Championships, where GB finished second, has earned a place at the qualifying tournament in Taiwan in March 2008, where the top three of the eight contenders will book an Olympic spot.

606: DEBATE

The GB side includes a number of players with Major League Baseball experience, but supporters say funding remains the sport's biggest problem.

UK Sport suspended funding for baseball in the same year the sport was dropped by the IOC.

Cuba has led the way since baseball became a fully fledged Olympic sport in 1992 - the nation has three gold medals and a silver to its name, and is one of four teams already certain of a berth in the 2008 Games.

The USA, the Netherlands and China (as the hosts) are the other three nations to have qualified, with the Americans now strong contenders for gold.

Elier Sanchez of Cuba throws a pitch
Cuban pitcher Elier Sanchez

They beat reigning Olympic champions Cuba 6-3 in the final of the Baseball World Cup, held in Taiwan in November.

Despite the sport's predominantly American image, the USA did not appear in the 2004 Athens event, having lost to Mexico in a qualifier.

Though baseball and softball will not feature at the London 2012 Olympics, there is a chance the sports could apply to regain Olympic status for 2016.

Despite becoming the first sports to be eliminated from the Olympics since polo was dropped in 1936, the IOC has yet to fill either of the two vacant slots the move created.



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