Tokyo, Japan, 24 May 2016 – Japan men’s captain Shimizu Kunihiro has said his side will be inspired by their female counterparts when they begin the Men’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo this Saturday.
The Japan women’s team booked their place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by finishing as the best placed Asian team at the women’s tournament last Sunday, and Kunihiro is looking to lead the men’s side to a first Olympic Games since Beijing 2008 having missed out at London 2012.
“The Olympic qualifier is a tournament that most players feel great pressure,” he explained. “Getting qualified to Olympic Games is not our goal, it is just a passage point to the Rio Olympic Games. We will be at the tournament with confidence.”
Kunihiro, who was his country’s highest scorer at last year’s FIVB Men’s World Cup with 191 points, will be joined by young newcomer Yuki Ishikawa, who himself made an impressive impact at last year’s tournament.
“I had some difficulties for my condition during World Cup, but now it’s OK,” the 20-year-old said. “In this season, I had training camp in Italy and United States and this experience brought me much confidence.”
Coach Masashi Nambu also feels his side are ready to take on the world’s best, and he is hoping the experience gained by his side in 2015 will put them in a good position to fight for a Rio 2016 berth.
“We built our team through good experiences in international tournaments such as Asian Games, Asian Championship and World Cup,” he said. “We are all united as one and try to do our best performance in the tournament.”
Japan will face Venezuela in their opening match at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament, where the top ranked Asian team and the top three ranked teams will earn a ticket to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.