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Japan’s women’s volleyball

Japan’s women’s volleyball

21/10/1964

Volleyball

This was the first time volleyball had been included in the Olympic programme, and it was keenly anticipated by the home supporters. The Japanese men took bronze, behind the dominant Soviet Union, but the home nation was more focused on Japan’s women’s volleyball team.

Ten members of the team worked at the same spinning mill near Osaka. The team’s coach, Hirofumi Daimatsu, also worked there, where he was in charge of buying office supplies. Such an ordinary exterior hid a man of extraordinary determination.

His training techniques bordered on the extreme. Players were taunted and forced to train almost every day of the year, but Daimatsu also created new tactics that have survived to this day.

He crafted a highly successful team that captured the fascination of the Japanese public. They were expected to win, and to win with style.

They obliged by dropping just one set in the whole tournament, a narrow 15-13 reverse at the hands of Poland. Even then, there was a reason - that set was conceded only after Daimatsu had taken some of his best players off the court in order to frustrate the watching Soviet scouts.

In the final match, the women played the USSR. The Soviet team actually reached the final with a superior record, with four victories and no sets conceded, but the match did not turn out to be the classic that neutrals might have hoped for. Instead, the Japanese were dominant from beginning to end, winning 3-0.

For the home fans, though, it was exactly the result they had hoped for. The women’s triumph was watched by 80% of the country on TV.

After the Olympic Games were over, the team’s captain, Masae Kasai, met the Prime Minister. She mentioned that she could not meet a prospective husband because of the athletes’ strict training regime. He sympathised, set her up on a date with a man named Kazuo Nakamura - and the two went on to marry.

Discover the best photos of Tokyo 1964

  • Vyacheslav Ivanov - 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games

    1964 Tokyo - Vyacheslav Ivanov (URS) 1st, on the top, and HILL Achim (EUA) 2nd. © 1964 / IOC

  • Opening Ceremony Tokyo 1964

    Yoshinori Sakai has lit the Olympic cauldron

    ©IOC

  • Opening Ceremony Tokyo 1964

    Yoshinori Sakai, the last torchbearer, stands next to Greek actress Aleka Katseli at a rehearsal prior to the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games

    ©Central-Press

  • Larisa Latynina (USSR)

    Larisa Latynina, with a bronze medal around her neck, on the third step of the podium after the beam competition of the Tokyo 1964 OG. On the top step is Czechoslovakia’s Vera Caslavska, while Tamara Manina (USSR) stands on the second step

    ©IOC

  • Yoyogi National Gymnasium

    An aerial view of the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, circa 1965. Designed by Kenzo Tange to house the swimming and diving events in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, it is now a major venue for basketball and ice hockey. (Photo by Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • Anton Geesink

    Dutch judo champion Anton Geesink arrives back in his home town of Utrecht after winning the gold medal in the open event at the Tokyo Olympics, 6th November 1964. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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