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Volleyball world mourns passing of Japanese great

Masae Nakamura (nee Kasai) on the podium during the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games

Tokyo, Japan, October 4, 2013 . It is with great sadness that the Japan Volleyball Association announced the passing of Masae Nakamura (nee Kasai) on Thursday. She was 80 years old.

Nakamura, the captain of the Japanese national women’s volleyball team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, was born in Yamanashi Prefecture on July 14, 1933. She started her career as a volleyball player at Nichibor Corporation in 1952. The Nichibor Volleyball Team won numerous times while she played there for 13 years. During six years from 1959 to 1964, the team enjoyed 175 consecutive victories.

Her volleyball career was not only limited to Japan, but also successful internationally. The national team of Japan, which was called “Oriental Witches,” shocked the world when they earned the silver medal at the 1960 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship. The team’s momentum was unstoppable. They won gold medals at the 1962 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship and at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when women’s volleyball first became part of Olympics.

She retired in 1965 and married in the same year. She became a mother of two boys and one girl however, she didn’t really retire from volleyball. She continued to be involved through volleyball classes and lectures. She also visited the competitions held in Japan as much as possible to support the Japan national women’s volleyball team.

In 1998, she was one of the runners of the torch relay at the Nagano Winter Olympics. In 2004, she took part in the Athens Olympics as a team manager of the Japanese national women’s team. She actively continued her volleyball career through coaching Mama-san Volleyball (middle-aged women’s volleyball) and promoting the sport in lectures. In 2008, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

When Tokyo was awarded to the 2020 Olympic Games, she sent the message to Japanese volleyball fans, “I wish Tokyo 2020 will be successful and will give much dreams and hopes. I am pretty sure that I am the happiest person to welcome the return of the Olympics Games to Tokyo.”

Yuichiro Hamu, the President of Japan Volleyball Association, commented, “We are all deeply shocked to hear the sudden death of Ms. Nakamura (Kasai). Our thoughts are with her and her family at this most difficult time of loss. We have no words to express our gratitude for her effort to the development of volleyball in Japan. In particular, she led the Japanese women’s volleyball team to the gold medal at Tokyo Olympics in 1964. She was the person who established the foundation of volleyball in Japan. I promise that we won’t give up our effort to make volleyball popular in Japan to respond to Ms. Nakamura’s wishes.”

"It is with great sadness that we received the news of the passing of the volleyball legend Masae Nakamura," FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graça F° said. "On behalf of the FIVB and the volleyball comunity around the world, I pass on our sincere condolences to her family and the Japan Volleyball Federation. She was a leader of her time and set the bench mark not only for Japanese volleyball but volleyball around the world." 

Read the article written about Masae Nakamura and another legend in the late Yuri Chesnokov at the 2004 Olympic Games here

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