In their two games at this week’s 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool, host nation Japan have only given up one goal thus far.
Japan’s goalkeeping duties have been split between Mitsuru Nagase and Shinobu Fukushima, with Nagase having been one of the team’s leaders the last several years.
Nagase was one of the stars for the Japanese team that won a surprise silver at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. In Japan’s shocking 3-1 semi-final win over Canada, Nagase recorded 19 saves, including a block from a rasping Brad Bowden shot with his head.
For Nagase, he’s doing what he’s always wanted to do.
“I read an article about ice sledge hockey in a Japanese magazine on sports for people with disabilities when I was in the hospital, and then I started to play ice sledge hockey a couple months later,” Nagase said.
“I was 19 years old then, which was three years before the Nagano 1998 Paralympics.”
Now, at 37, the veteran player is anchoring their team once again in Nagano, this time at the World Championships B-Pool.
Nagase played the entirety of Japan’s game against Great Britain on Monday (11 March), allowing just one goal and recording 10 saves.
If Japan finishes in the top three in Nagano, they will advance to the Paralympic Qualification Tournament to try to make the field for Sochi 2014.
“I need to train hard and believe in teammates and myself,” Nagase said. “Although we lost in the World Championships (A-Pool) last year, we still have chance to win a medal in Sochi.”
Here’s a closer look at Mitsuru Nagase …
Loves to play against: Canada because they play very aggressively and shoot hard and fast. I like making saves from them.
Most memorable game: Semi-final against Canada at Vancouver 2010 Games. We won the game and a medal for the first time in Japanese sledge hockey history.
Wears jersey number: 39
Pre-game music: Japanese pop music
Keep my medals in/at: My bedroom.
Most admired person: Terry Fox, who tried to run across Canada with an artificial leg to fight cancer.
Japan's Mitsuru Nagase was part of team that won a silver medal at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.