London 2012

Press release

Japan shrug off nerves to end wait for Olympic medal

Sakoda (left) was a menace to Korea at the net, throughout the London 2012 bronze medal match

London, Great Britain, August 11, 2012 – Japan’s long wait for an Olympic Games volleyball medal came to an end when they beat South Korea 3-0 to win bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Saturday.

The memory of Japan’s previous medal – women’s bronze at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games – has hung over both the men’s and women’s teams for the subsequent six Olympics and meant that the women were under immense pressure before the match at Earl’s Court.

"We had fear and nerves previous to the game,” wing spiker Saori Sakoda said. “However we wanted to turn it into concentration and it worked. We worked very well together.”

“There was a lot of pressure on us and I felt like running away,” libero Yuko Sano added. “But everyone felt the same way and in the end we had to stick together.”

Sakoda led the scoring for Japan with 23 points in a match that lasted one hour, 23 minutes. She was a powerful presence at the net and didn’t give Korea a moment’s peace.

The medal is Japan women’s sixth and is their second bronze to go alongside two gold and two silver medals. Japan’s women won their first gold in front of their home fans during the sport’s debut at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games.

"This win is very special to our team for many reasons but one of the main ones is because it has been almost 30 years since our last Olympic medal in women's volleyball,” Sakoda said.

“I'm part of the team and I scored a lot of points today, but I wouldn't have been in a position to get them if it wasn't for the play around me of my teammates. I want to help them just like they want to help me and today we helped each other."

Japan’s women now have double the number of Olympic medals that their male counterparts have. The men began with bronze in Tokyo, improved to silver in Mexico City in 1968 and won gold in Munich in 1972.

The bronze is one of 36 that the Japanese delegation has won at London 2012 thus far and will give the team the confidence to challenge Brazil, the winners of the last two editions of the FIVB World Championships, when the South Americans defend their title in Italy in 2014.

"The bronze medal means many different things to us,” Sakoda said. “We are proud to represent Japan and to give our country another medal in the Olympics. We want our country to enjoy this medal with us and we want it to be an example for younger players of what they can achieve."

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