28.06.2019 - Hamburg
The two Japanese teams at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord are aiming to raise the profile of the sport in their homeland before the Olympics in Tokyo next year.
Both teams lost their opening matches at the Red Bull Beach Arena on day one of the championships but that isn’t stopping them from capturing the imagination of new beach volleyball fans back home in Japan.
“For us it’s important to make beach volleyball big in Japan,” said Yusuke Ishjima, the 35-year-old blocker, who represented his country in indoor volleyball at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“It’s been 12 years since a men’s team represented Japan at a World Championships so I’m glad we made it. We’re really appreciate it. It’s great to play against the top teams in the world, especially some in the top 10.”
The pair, who have only played two previous tournaments on the World Tour together, went down in straight sets to one of the title favorites, Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy of Russia.
Yusuke’s partner, Yuya Ageba, added: “We’re not just here to lose but we still have two games to go and we will prepare for these as best we can.
“We know we still need to click as a team but individually I think we have what it takes to fight well.”
It’s the opposite on the women’s side as Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami are playing in their 30th World Tour event together.
And the duo are certainly not here to lose – the pair have posted a number of big results since joining forces, winning two medals and finishing fifth in the Gstaad Major last summer.
The pair, who are 16th in the world rankings, might have lost their opening game here in Hamburg – going down in a three-set thriller to China’s Fan Wang and Xinyi Xia – but they remain optimistic of success.
“We want to encourage more people back in Japan to take up beach volleyball, especially ahead of Tokyo 2020,” said Ishii.
“We are excited to do our best here and in the next 12 months. We know there is an expectation on Japan next year but we cannot get excited about that yet.
“We are here in Hamburg to win and we are disappointed to lose the first match.”
Both teams have two games remaining in Hamburg to attempt to reach the knockout stages. Should they reach those elimination matches then you can for sure be certain that the interest in them will grow even further.