Rhodes, Greece, June 6, 2003 – For two of Japan’s finest beach volleyballers,
improving their results and standings on the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour is not
their sole ambition this year.
Koichi ‘Nishi’ Nishimura and his partner Kentaro Asahi have just embarked on
only their second season on the World Tour and the former Japanese indoor
internationals are determined to leave their mark on the beach game over the
But they are also committed to raising environmental awareness through the
Global Sports Alliance (GSA), an organization based in Tokyo that hopes to
create a more sustainable society with the help of the sports community
around the world.
Ecoflag is the symbol of the GSA and the FIVB has recently given the
organization their full backing. ‘Nishi’ and Asahi were also keen to
volunteer their services to the cause and have been adopted as ‘Ecoflag
“When I played indoor I paid little attention to the environment,” said
29-year-old Nishi, a libero for the NEC club and a Japanese international
for five years.
“But as soon as I started in beach I realized its importance. I felt the
wind and saw how it changed the flight of the ball.”
Part of the GSA’s campaign is to convince the public to keep the world’s
beaches tidy and free from garbage. Remarkably, four times a day during
Japanese beach events, the GSA has persuaded spectators to spend five
minutes picking litter off the beaches, with the players leading by example.
“We are ‘Garbage Busters’ for the Ecoflag,” said Asahi, aged 27. “Back home,
we lead all the fans on to the beach for a quick clear up in between games.
We are very proud we can help.
“Japanese beaches are not very clean and because of that the young people
will not go to swim. We want to change that.”
As for their conversion to the beach game, both Nishi and Asahi know that
they still have a great deal to learn.
The pair may have pop star status back home in Japan with a huge female fan
base, but they are still very much on the lower rungs of the beach ladder.
“Last year was miserable for us because it was our first season,” said
Asahi, a former attacker for the Santori club and also a Japanese
international for five years.
“Beach is a totally different sport, played in a totally different
environment and it will take us some time to adapt.”
The pair decided to make the switch because of the absence of Japanese beach
players at the Sydney Olympic Games.
“We watched the beach volleyball from Sydney on television and noticed there
were no Japanese – we want to change that,” added Nishi. “Our aim is to
qualify for the main draw is as many SWATCH-FIVB World Tour events as
possible, and also make it to Athens next year.”
Sadly the pair failed in their bid to qualify for the Men’s Hellas Open in
Rhodes this week, but with Nishi’s agility and remarkable leap, and Asahi’s
blocking and spiking skills, they showed enough potential to suggest that
they will be a force in the coming season.