“Apart from the USA that have displayed more quality and consistency than any other team, the race for the podium has never been as close as here at Earls Court. Russia, Italy, China, Brazil and Japan are all potential medal contenders but I do hope that our group captained by Erika Araki will make it to the semis” says Obayashi.
Japan has never gone that far in the Olympic tournament since 1988 and there in Seoul, Korea, Obayashi was part of the group that ended up in fourth place after losing to Peru in the semis and being ousted by China in the bronze medal match. “You know, even though I love the Olympics and everything around this event, I still feel sad by recalling the memories of these days in Korea where we eventually missed out on a medal. Nowadays, working as a journalist, I feel very lucky for being given the chance to share my knowledge of the sport and convey volleyball to a large audience back home in Japan”.
Team Japan won gold in the women’s tournament as volleyball debuted at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, but since those golden years the country has gradually lost its supremacy as the sport has become more physical and Japan is traditionally lacking tall players to compete in this arena. “We have been searching for young players who may take up the challenge brought by the other teams, but because of the specific genetics of Japanese people, there is not much we can do to compensate for this deficiency. However, we still can compete with the best in the world if we improve our efficiency and quality in three fundamentals, namely the serve, the reception and the digs. Lastly, we have to minimize our errors to make sure we can have a realistic shot at a medal” reads the recipe prepared by Obayashi.
The 45-year old Japanese star insists also on another aspect that may well help Japan on their quest for the Olympic podium at Earls Court. “Our players are all very nice girls, with a big heart, but they shall be a little bit more aggressive on the court, a bit more of fighting spirit could help because you can’t be too nice if your aim is to be successful in sport”.
Obayashi is very much involved also in Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympics and feels that similarly to what has happened in Great Britain, the Olympiad would help Japan win the attention of many youngsters and children who – captured and fascinated by the Olympic spirit – would then get involved in sport, take up a healthy lifestyle and possibly volleyball. “My wish is that Tokyo will get the Olympics, and if my country is given this honor, I would love to follow the volleyball tournament once again as a TV commentator to accompany team Japan along the way to an Olympic medal on home soil. That would be just fabulous”.
The 2020 Olympics will be allotted only next year, so Obayashi still has got some time to work on her long-term dreams; for the time being she will be closely following the actions of Saori Kimura & Co. who – after their bronze medal at the 2010 Words – are on a good track to bring the Land of the Rising Sun back to the top of the volleyball world.