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  FIVB Women's World Olympic Qualification Tournament
 
 
 JPN / - Team Composition
 
 
Team manager NARITA, Akihiko
Head coach YANAGIMOTO, Shoichi
Assistant coach BANDAIRA, Mamoru
Doctor YAMAGUCHI, Hiroshi
Therapist / trainer NAKAMURA, Kazumi (Ms.)
Journalist YAMAGISHI, Motofumi
 
  No. Name Lastname Shirt Name Birthdate Height Weight Spike Block Club
1 Megumi Kurihara Kurihara 31.07.1984 187 69 308 295 Dynamo Kazan
2   Asako Tajimi Tajimi 26.06.1972 180 70 309 304 Pioneer Red Wings
C 3 Yoshie Takeshita Takeshita 18.03.1978 159 53 280 270 JT Marvelous
4   Kanako Omura Omura 15.12.1976 184 70 319 310 Hisamitsu Springs
5 Miyuki Takahashi Shin 25.12.1978 170 65 290 285 NEC Red Rockets
L 6   Yuko Sano Sano 26.07.1979 159 54 260 250 Denso Airybees
7 Sachiko Sugiyama Sugiyama 19.10.1979 184 66 310 305 NEC Red Rockets
8   Yuka Sakurai Sakurai 02.09.1974 167 63 290 275 Denso Airybees
9 Miyuki Kano Kano 17.05.1977 174 65 298 275 Hisamitsu Springs
11   Erika Araki Araki 03.08.1984 186 81 305 297 Toyota Auto Body Queenseis
12 Saori Kimura Saori 19.08.1986 185 65 304 293 Toray Arrows
14   Yuki Kawai Kawai 22.01.1990 169 63 280 275 JT Marvelous
 C=Captain  L=Libero
Team Profile   Coach Profile

The year 2008 will be the fifth since Shoichi Yanagimoto, head coach of Japan's squad, started coaching the Japanese Women's National Team and this will undoubtedly be the most crucial year for him and his squad.
 
Five years ago, Yanagimoto picked then young promising players i.e. Megumi Kurihara (23, 186 cm, Pioneer Red Wing ), Kana Oyama ( 23, 187 cm, Toray Arrows) and Saori Kimura (21, 184 cm, Toray Arrows) and Japan's squad took the World Cup 2003 by storm. Building on a momentum from the World Cup 2003, the squad qualified for the Olympics in Athens at the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2004. Japan had put a stop to the absences from the Olympics and finished in fifth place.
 
After the Olympics in 2004, Yanagimoto's squad has had its ups and downs; however, they gradually improved. In 2005, due to injuries, the coach was unable to pick his best members. Nevertheless, despite the concerns of everyone involved, Yanagimoto superbly turned this negative into a positive, and created a very good team with small players.
 
In 2006, at the World Championship in Japan, Japan's squad, as the organizing country, was under enormous pressure. Despite the loss to Chinese Taipei in the curtain raiser, Yamagimoto reorganized his team the following day and the players were able to realize their potential. Finishing fifth in the Championship, Japan missed an opportunity to win a medal; however, the come-from-behind victory over Serbia and Montenegro (3-2), who finished third, gave Japan confidence and hope.
 
The start of the 2007 season seemed very bright. Most players who were considered the best in the previous year's Premier League were gathered at the first camp. Although some experienced players i.e. Kaoru Sugayama and Kana Oyama quit the team because of injuries that required rehabilitation with their club teams, the team skipper, Yoshie Takeshita, and co-skipper, Miyuki Takahashi, led the team. The most significant thing for the team was that the most reliable spiker, Megumi Kurihara, made her first appearance in the National Team since the Olympic Games in 2004.
 
In fact, the absence of some outside spikers was the reason for a poor team performance and the goal of the team to be among the top three could not be fulfilled at the World Grand Prix 2007. Immediately after the World Grand Prix 2007 the squad started a training camp in preparation for the 14th Asian Championship.
 
In September 2007, at the 14th Asian Women's Championship in Thailand, Japan beat China for the third time in 24 years. That was a sensational moment for Japan to have realized a long-cherished dream. Furthermore, the Japanese players gained a lot of confidence in their Volleyball and the momentum towards the World Cup 2007.
 
With the momentum gained from the Asian Championship and adding new power to the team with a new promising setter, Yuki Kawai, Japan's squad entered the World Cup 2007, the first qualifier for the Beijing Olympics. Yet despite good performances, Japan could not reach its goal - to secure a berth at the Beijing Olympics 2008, and Japan had no choice but to compete at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo in May.
 
The final goal of Yamagimoto's squad this year - to win a medal in Beijing - is,  needless to say, unchanged. The forthcoming World Olympic Qaulification Tournament and the World Grand Prix 2008 would be simply the first and the second steps toward the Olympics. Recognizing that most participating teams in the Olympic qualifier are very hard to beat, Yanagimoto and his players are sure to fight bravely in order to get over their first hurdle.

 

Although there are many Volleyball coaches in the world, there are not many like Shoichi Yanagimoto, the present Head Coach of the Japanese Women's squad, who has been involved in various aspects of Volleyball throughout his career.
 
Yanagimoto, born in Osaka in 1951, was a promising setter even in high school and won two national high school titles. He decided to pursue a career as a Volleyball player with the New Nippon Steel team, one of the major companies in Japan, and was selected for Japan's National Team squad. He achieved remarkable success - first at the Asian Games in Iran in 1974, third at the World Championship in Mexico in 1974 and fourth in the Olympics in Montreal in 1976. Furthermore, for four seasons from 1980 to 1984 Yanagimoto played two roles at New Nippon Steel - as Head Coach and as the key setter - and he led his squad to a glorious victory in the Japan League, the then premier league in Japan, and Yanagimoto was voted Best Coach in 1982.
 
In 1985, Yanagimoto was invited to Thailand to coach the Thailand Men's National Team. Despite a lack of time and difficulty in communicating to his players his passionate ideas about coaching, Yanagimoto guided them to first place at the SEA Games. He sometimes recalls this time in Thailand and is convinced that his experiences there have broadened his horizons and mind.
 
In the following year, 1986, Yanagimoto was asked to be involved in the founding of a new team, Nisshin Steel, and to coach them. So he resumed his career in Japan and Nisshin Steel soon got promoted to the first division, the V. League. As a result, Yanagimoto's reputation as a coach was enhanced.
 
The year 1997 was the turning point in his Volleyball career when he took over TOYOBO Orchis, a Women's company team in the V. League, and won the V. League twice in five seasons. However, in 2002, despite being one of the top teams, the owners decided to follow the example of Hitachi, Odakyu and UNITIKA and close down their Volleyball team as a cost-cutting measure due to the long-lasting economic depression. 
 
In spring 2003, Yanagimoto was appointed as Head Coach of the Japanese Women's National Team squad by the JVA. Within eight months his squad had made a remarkable improvement and ended up fifth at the Women's World Cup in November. At the World Olympic Qualification Tournament the following year, Japan finished first and eventually qualified for the Olympics in Athens. Japan ended up fifth there and Yanagimoto keenly realised that his team lacked international experience and solid individual skills.
 
Yanagimoto's next goal after the Olympic Games was to join the top group at the World Championship in 2006. Japan's team which competed at the World Championship was in good form and despite the tough competition schedule, the players played consistently well and ended up fifth.
 
Since the Olympics in 2004, however, all has not been smooth sailing for his squad. Whenever key players left the squad due to injuries, Yanagimoto has always tried to make his team strong by making the most of his remaining players' ability.