Japan has never been a world power in water polo, but the national teams of Asian countries have improved a lot in the last couple of years. The men’s team took part in the 2016 Olympics, and the women’s team has also had some notable achievements recently. The Japanese aim at closing the gap between themselves and top teams by 2020, the year when they will host the Olympic Games.
If you asked an average water polo fan whether he/she knows a Japanese female player or not, the answer would definitely be no. The men’s team made a relatively good performance at the 2016 Olympics, where some players like Koji, Okawa and Tanamura played really well, but what about the women’s team?
They have never belonged to the best teams in the world. They have not managed to qualify for the Olympic Games yet, and the 17th FINA World Championships will only be the fourth World Championships in their history.
The Japanese women took part in the 2001 FINA World for the first time, as in fact they were the hosts of the event in Fukuoka. As expected, they finished last in their group, but they played some great matches: they were defeated only 8-7 by the Dutch, 5-3 by the Greeks and 7-4 by the Canadians.
They managed to qualify for the 2003 World Championships as well. They lost against the Netherlands and Russia, but they had a historic win against Venezuela (12-4) in Barcelona.
The next couple of years were not so successful for them, but in autumn 2013 it was announced that Tokyo would host the 2020 Olympic Games, and it meant that the Japanese would try to develop a stronger women’s water polo team as well.
The first sign of that was the silver medal at the 2014 Asian Games, which entailed automatic qualification for the 2015 FINA World Championships. They were beaten easily by the Team USA and Italy, but they played a tight game against Brazil in Kazan.
The development of the team was, however, unquestionable: they managed to qualify for the 2017 FINA World, too, and the team will get the opportunity to gain some more experience in the upcoming years.
"We would like to continue and further enhance collaboration with major European teams and Australia, as well as sending our players to overseas club teams. We would like to develop our players through our domestic tournaments as well. " – said Akira Hara, Chairman of Waterpolo Committee of the Japan Swimming Federation (JASF). (wpdworld.com, 03.01.2017)
Miura – Sakanoue, Kazama, Magariyama, Nakata, Takahashi, Nakano, Hashiguchi, Hosoya, Mori, Tokumoto, Suzuki – Umeda. That was the squad of the Japanese women’s water polo team at the 2015 FINA World Championships. The question is how many names will be remembered by the fans after the event?
The Japanese women's team at the FINA World Championships:
2001: 11th place
2003: 11th place
2015: 15th place