Siblings Yuri and Hazuki Nagai are among 16 players selected by Japan Hockey Association (JHA) in women’s field hockey for the Rio Olympic Games.
The 24-year-old Yuri, who plays for Real Sociedad in the Spanish League, and Hazuki, who is three years younger, also featured in the 2015 World League semi-finals. The Rio Olympics will be the sibling’s first assignment at the pinnacle of world hockey.
JHA have entrusted the captaincy job to midfielder Miyuki Nakagawa, who at 29, is a veteran of three Olympics – 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Summer Games. Another senior team member is defender Mayumi Ono, a member of the 2008 Beijing Olympics squad. She was left out of the London Summer Games due to injury before making a return in 2016.
Four players – goalkeeper Sachiyo Asano, defender Nagisa Hayashi, midfielder Akane Shibata and forward Aki Mitsuhashi, had also represented Japan at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 World League semi-finals. The Sakura Japanese team travel to Rio de Janeiro blessed with a side full of experience.
As for Yuri and Hazuki, it will also be a truly family affair when the Olympic Games begin in early August as the two sisters will have a watchful eye over them. Their father, Yuji, 52, is the manager of the team.
Although Yuji was a member of the men’s national hockey team, he never had the opportunity to compete in the Olympics but takes great pride in seeing what his daughters have accomplished.
Ranked 10th in the FIH world rankings, Japan is drawn into Group B in the Rio Olympics alongside World No 2 Argentina, Australia (No 3), United States (No 5), Great Britain (No 7) and India (No 13).
They open their campaign against the Indians on Aug 7 followed by matches against Argentina (Aug 8), United States (Aug 10), Great Britain (Aug 11) and conclude the preliminary round league match against Australia on Aug 13.
In the build-up to the Olympics, the Japanese finished third in a Four-Nation Invitational tournament in Darwin that included Olympic-bound teams in Australia, New Zealand and India. The Kiwis defeated the Australians in the final while India came in fourth.
Sakura Japan, however, maintained an unbeaten run of four consecutive wins in the recent Test series at home against the 19th ranked Canada in the run-up to the Rio Olympics.
The Squad – Goalkeeper: Sachiyo Asano; Defenders: Mayumi Ono, Nagisa Hayash, Emi Nishikiori, Ayaka Nishimura, Maki Sakaguchi; Midfielders: Miyuki Nakagawa (Capt), Akane Shibata, Hazuki Yuda, Yukari Mano, Hazuki Nagai; Forwards: Mie Nakashima, Aki Mitsuhashi, Yuri Nagai, Minami Shimizu, Motomi Kawamura.
To find out more about the Olympic hockey events there, click here.
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