23. 10. 2020

Can Team Japan Make a Splash as Hosts of Olympic Volleyball?

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Let's analyze the chances of the Japanese men's and women's national teams for the Olympic Games 2021.

 

Japanese volleyball is in reasonably good shape at the moment, with both the men’s (9th) and women’s (7th) teams ranked in the top 10 in FIVB’s new ratings system. But the Japanese teams are a long way from the success of their heydays in the 1960s and 1970s when both teams were coming from Olympic games on a regular basis. The men’s team, in particular, has dropped away in the last couple of decades, only qualifying for one Olympics tournament (they finished 11th in Beijing 2008) from the last six.

However, a home Olympics is another matter, and we just have to look back to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when the two teams brought home gold (women) and bronze (men) from a successful overall tournament for Team Japan. It’s commonly held that host nations can get a boost in their performance. Indeed, it’s been calculated that hosting an Olympics increases your medal count by an average of 20, including ten golds. Of course, that doesn’t mean guaranteed success in individual sports, but it should give Team Japan a bit of confidence.

Ishikawa has high ambitions

The men’s team clearly has the most work to do if a medal place is to be achieved. Brazil, winners of the gold medal in 2016, will likely start as the clear betting favourites ahead of the United States and Poland, and nations like Italy, Russia, France and Argentina will also be tipped ahead of Japan. For the hosts, much might depend on the form of 24-year-old Yuki Ishikawa. The spiker has won a host of individual awards in his career so far, and he has designs on becoming one of the world’s best players. There will be no better place to show than at the Olympics next summer.

Yuki is not the only member of the Ishikawa family hoping for glory next summer, though, as his younger sister, Mayu, is an up-and-coming star for the women’s team. While the women look to be in with a slightly better chance than the men, it will nevertheless be daunting for Team Japan to take on the likes of China, USA and Brazil. Still, they are in with a chance of a medal next summer.

Home advantage can add to the pressure

Perhaps the burning question for both teams is whether or not a home Olympics can help or hinder their performance. We mentioned earlier that overall medals tend to increase, but players can also feel the pressure of a home tournament and wilt under the spotlight. While Brazil did fine in 2016, with the men picking up the gold and women losing out narrowly to China in the quarter-finals, we can look at Great Britain’s performance in London 2012 as a warning. The British men’s team was whitewashed 0-5 in the pool stage, and the women’s team was only marginally better, finishing with one hard-fought win over Algeria.

But the good news is that the Japanese are closer to teams like Brazil and USA of volleyball than they are to the likes of Great Britain and Algeria. Anything less than getting out of the pools and into the quarter-finals will be viewed as a failure. Anything better than reaching the semis and a possible medal game will be viewed as a success. Can Team Japan make home advantage count?

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Vargas exclusively for WoV: “I have no desire to change my federation of origin“

Re: @George
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