“But in Japan, the knowledge isn’t as big, so I think we’re at a disadvantage as it’s harder to learn.”
Japan’s ice sledge hockey team will be going back to the drawing board this offseason after finishing in eighth place at the recent IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool in Buffalo, New York, USA.
While the Japanese squad did not win a game in the tournament and were relegated to the B-Pool, they hope to use the tournament as a learning experience.
Since winning a silver medal at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, the Japanese team have bounced back and forth between the sport’s A-Pool and B-Pool and missed out on qualifying for the Sochi 2014 Games.
Three-time Paralympian Kazuhiro Takahashi has arguably been the team’s driving force over the last half of a decade, having been named the Best Forward at the 2013 World Championships B-Pool after finishing with a tournament-leading eight goals.
The Tokyo native insists that in order to qualify for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics, the Japanese team must find a way to better immerse themselves in hockey knowledge on a daily basis.
“North Americans and Europeans live in a world with more of a hockey sense. They’re surrounded by it in the media,” Takahashi said. “But in Japan, the knowledge isn’t as big, so I think we’re at a disadvantage as it’s harder to learn.”
Japanese head coach Kojin Nakakita echoed those sentiments, pointing out one country in particular.
“In Canada, everybody in the family talks about hockey,” Nakakita said. “But in Japan, we have to bring it out of people. That’s a huge disadvantage for us we cannot control.”
As a result, Nakakita said he will be looking at Canada’s sledge hockey programme as a model and has already begun to seek out their staff for advice on how to better his own programme.
With three years to go until the next Paralympic Winter Games, Japan still have a chance to qualify for PyeongChang 2018 if they finish among the top three at the 2017 World Championships B-Pool. They would then have to place among the top finishers at the Qualification Tournament, which is expected to be played later in that same year.
The USA left Buffalo with gold after beating Canada in the gold medal game, whilst Russia sealed bronze.
For more information about the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge World Championships A-Pool visit Buffalo2015.com.