Players from Japan are in the midst of their preparations for the 2016 Ice Sledge Hockey Pan Pacific Championships, where the development of their team will be helped by players from other participating countries.
Team Pan Pacific will compete at the first Championships of its kind from Monday (29 April) in Buffalo, New York, USA. The group will be formed of athletes from Canada and the USA, competing alongside Japan, with the aim of sharing knowledge and experience.
It will also allow Japan to compete on an international stage, which should help raise awareness of the sport nationally.
Team captain Saturo Sudo, of Japan, is currently leading national athletes through a training camp before they travel to Buffalo to meet their fellow teammates.
“We will face the language barriers, so we wish to overcome such issue and we would like to enjoy the games with cooperation with the players from other countries,” Sudo said.
In 2015, Japan were relegated to the B-Pool after finishing eighth at the World Championships A-Pool. They have been honest about their challenges, which include attracting new, young players, because of the low profile of the sport in the country.
However Sudo believes that the experience the current players have will act as an advantage.
“The Japanese team has many veteran players,” he said. “They are not upset in any cases, and they can keep calm to perform their best.”
Team Pan Pacific’s first game will be against reigning world and Paralympic champions the USA on Monday.
Sudo hopes that competing in a major international tournament alongside players from teams with huge success behind them will help his group of players flourish.
“We would like to thank all players who agree to this challenge and decide to participate,” he said. “We can play with high class players in the same team, through which we can experience their high skills. We would like to feedback what we find to our Japanese team for the improvement of our team.”
Team Pan Pacific will compete against the USA, World Championships silver medallists Canada and South Korea between 29 March - 2 April.
The 2016 Ice Sledge Hockey Pan Pacific Championships are the first in the history of the sport.
The 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey European Championships will follow in Ostersund, Sweden, from 5-10 April.