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Youichi Kato

Youichi Kato, a wing-spiker from Oita, is a revelation amongst a Japanese volleyball team, which has rarely fired on the international arena. In a sport where Japan is crying out for champions Kato is a leader in his field. The 26-year-old has just completed his first season for Sisley Treviso, who reached the final of the prestigious Italian League.

This move obviously speaks volumes for the class of Kato and he is lapping up the opportunity to play with the best of the best. An experience like that is just what Japanese players need, especially if they are to be more competitive in the World League and Kato recognizes the fact. "In Italy, Volleyball is considered a professional sport and players are asked to play volleyball as their work, while in Japan players have other jobs and volleyball is not at this level, it's an amateur sport," he said. "As for the players "duties", like playing a precise position like setter, middle-blocker etc., in Japan I was asked to be universal, while in Italy everyone has a precise role and for me it's easier to focus on my precise duties."

At only 190cm Kato is a joy to watch, especially with his inspirational attacking arm and leadership qualities. He has been liken to "a little terrier" on the court and Japan's pool opponents - France, the Czech Republic and Greece - better be on guard although, his bark is worse than his bite.

Youichi Kato in Brief:
Wing-spiker Youichi Kato, 196cm tall and 26 years old, made his club debut in 1991 with the Japanese club Uenogaoka Jnr. High School. He appeared for the first time in an international match in a series of friendlies with the Czech Republic in 1997. He then went on to represent his country at the 1998 and 2002 World Championship, the 1999 World Cup, the 2001 World Grand Champions Cup and has played for Japan in the 2001 and 2002 World League editions. Kato is a self confessed follower of Japanese pop music and food, likes Sydney Sheldon books and also likes to play tennis.