Tokyo, July 26, 2007 - The Japan Volleyball Association held a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon to introduce a group of 14 players for the upcoming FIVB World Grand Prix.
Led by 2006 World Championship MVP Yoshie Takeshita, the squad includes seven players with Olympic Games experience.
Among those are 35-year-old middle blocker Asako Tajimi, who played in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics and is returning to the national team after a lengthy absence, and Athens Olympian Megumi Kurihara, who was Japan’s outstanding player in the recent Boris Yeltsin Cup in Russia.
Head coach Shoichi Yanagimoto said the World Grand Prix would be very important along the road to the World Cup in Japan in November, when the top three teams will win a ticket to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“I would say the condition of the team at the moment is 75 per cent because of the time needed to build up the team and try new players,” said Yanagimoto, who has been head coach since 2003. "If these players produce their best performance we can play a good game against the strongest of teams.”
Japan will host three weekends of the Grand Prix preliminary round, from August 3-5 and August 10-12 at Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo, and from August 17-19 at Osaka Municipal Gym.
Host broadcaster TBS is reserving nine prime-time evening programmes for the Japan games in an operation involving 20 cameras.
Japan’s squad is: Wing spikers – Megumi Kurihara, Miyuki Takahashi, Shuka Oyama; middle blockers – Asako Tajimi, Sachiko Sugiyama, Kumiko Sakino, Erika Araki, Kanako Omura, Yuki Shoji. Setters – Yoshie Takeshita (captain), Megumi Itabashi. Liberos – Yuko Sano, Yuka Sakurai. Wing spiker/setter, Saori Kimura.