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Team Japan’s improvement will take time says former volleyball star Motoko Obayashi

A three-time Olympian, Motoko Obayashi is a true ambassador for volleyball in Japan
Kyoto, Japan, November 20, 2013 – If there is an advocate for volleyball in Japan, Motoko Obayashi is certainly the right person to fulfil this role. A three-time Olympian, Obayashi is also working for many Japanese TV stations and supporting their work anytime an international tournament is taking place in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Last year she was in attendance as Japan women’s national team won bronze at the London Olympics, thereby achieving a feat that she had missed three times as she was among the players who represented Japan at the 1988, 1992, and 1996 Olympics. Right now she is working very intensively to promote volleyball in her native country, with the goal to scout young girls and boys who may represent Japan by the time – in 2020 – Tokyo hosts the XXXII Olympiad. “Since last year I have been working with children and tried to teach them the ABC of volleyball. I have been to many schools in Japan and have shared my personal story with these young kids. I started playing volleyball by the time I was 15 and only seven years later I represented Japan at my first Olympics in Seoul. So you can see that everything developed very quickly and for this reason I always try to motivate the children I meet by saying that if they start now, maybe in seven years they will be the ones wearing the jersey of our national team at Tokyo 2020.”

Obayashi did also work for the Bidding Committee of Tokyo 2020 and has addressed many people in Japan trying to share her Olympic enthusiasm: “I hope I have been able to light the Olympic flame in many hearts,” she says. “Personally I feel very excited even though there are still seven years to go before Tokyo welcomes the Games. Back in 1964, as our capital city played host to the Olympics, I wasn’t born yet, so I really look forward to Tokyo 2020 and hope we will be able to spark an Olympic fever across the country.”

Last week she followed the Women’s World Grand Champions Cup and in the end she was satisfied with Japan winning bronze in the tournament. “I think we can be happy with what Team Japan achieved especially because in this competition we were testing an innovative system of play for the first time. We played with only one middle blocker, a strategy that Japanese media and volleyball experts refer to as MB-1. We also tested some young players who weren’t in London last year, so if you take all this into account, the bronze medal we won is a very good result. Of course, we would like to continue our development and hopefully in the next international competitions we can move up and win silver or maybe even gold.”

As for the men’s tournament, Obayashi was there yesterday as Japan debuted in the Grand Champions Cup losing their first game to USA. “Our coach Gary Sato has been working with this group for only eight months, so it is still very early to evaluate where the team stands. I think that it is going to take some time for Gary to make sure the team plays the way he wants. We stall take this process gradually and continue to work hard because results will come step by step. Gary needs to re-start from scratch and forget about the recent history of our men’s national team. It takes time but I hope our players will exploit this tournament as an opportunity to continue with their steady progress. This is just the beginning of a long-term process.”


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