Japanese men’s hockey captain Manabu Yamashita says he “cannot wait” for next year’s Olympic Games. Yamashita made his comments after Japan’s 52-year wait for the men’s team to again feature at the Olympics was extended by 12 months following the postponement of Tokyo Olympic until 2021. Japan’s men made their last Olympic appearance in 1968, but qualified as hosts this time around.
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“I am very excited and I cannot wait for the Olympic 2020 Games to take place in my country,” Yamashita said, speaking to the International Hockey Federation’s YouTube channel.
I feel extremely lucky. I will be very proud to be representing my country and singing the national anthem on the pitch. Japan produced a big upset two years ago to win gold in men’s hockey at the 2018 Asian Games – while the country’s women’s team also left Indonesia with a gold medal.
The men edged past Malaysia in the final via a shootout, having beaten Pakistan in the semi-finals and finished behind India in their group. It was the team’s first Asian Games medal since 1970 and arguably the greatest achievement in its history, with only Olympic silver in 1932 able to rival it.
That is the only time Japan have won a medal in five previous Olympic appearances. India will again be in Japan’s group at Tokyo Olympic joined by Spain, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia. Currently 15th in the world rankings, Japan are set to be the lowest-ranked team at the tournament.
The coronavirus pandemic – the reason for the Games’ postponement – has also had an impact on the team’s preparations, but Yamashita says they have stayed in contact throughout these testing times. We had weekly meetings where we discussed strategy, explained the 31-year-old. But we also had several online fun sessions where we did a lot of dancing and drawing. We had ad-hoc meetings and did some activities for kids.