Omaha, USA, July 24, 2015 – Miyu Nagaoka might be currently competing at the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Omaha 2015 with Japan, but this is just one of several big events for the 23 year-old over the next year or so.
The Hisamitsu Springs star is her team’s second highest scorer with 22 points - currently behind young up-and-comer on Sarina Koga on 28 - but given her experience, which includes almost 90 matches for Japan, she is helping provide some guidance for the relatively inexperienced side they have here.
However, that youth and exuberance has had a positive impact on the team, despite the fact that they are yet to win a set.
“Unfortunately Japan has been losing,” she said. “But I’m enjoying competing against other teams around the world.
“Even though many players are a lot younger, once they are on court, it doesn’t matter. They are actually bringing that young energy to the team and that is making us better.”
For a team that can boast the likes of captain Saori Kimura, Erika Araki and Yukiko Ebata, coach Masayoshi Manabe has chosen to blood some new players during this year’s campaign.
Although they are unlikely to win a medal in Omaha, the experience for Nagaoka is a great one ahead of the FIVB Volleyball World Cup Japan 2015 later this year. It will be the first time the Fukuoka-born outside hitter will compete at the tournament. However she is hoping to draw on her experience from last year’s FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 where Japan finished seventh and is trying not to concentrate on her tournament debut.
“Even though this is the first World Cup for me, there is no room to think about that. I am a representative for Japan and I want to keep pulling the team to a better place. That is my ultimate goal with this team.”
The World Cup has been held in Japan for every edition since 1977. That was the same year Japan last appeared on the podium. They finished second on that occasion and will have to match that in 2015 should they want a coveted berth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Volleyball is hugely popular in Japan, with fans flocking to arenas for many FIVB events. Nagaoka is hoping to absorb some of that home support for the competition when it takes place from September 8 to 23.
“I think the crowd will be a very big advantage and I’m really hoping to use that.
“Having such great home support helps you grow even stronger and bigger. That energy will be really important to our performance on the court.”
It is a grueling schedule however, one of the toughest in volleyball.
The women’s tournament will take place across 17 days with each team playing 11 matches each. Recovery can mean the difference between winning and losing, something not lost on the 1.79 metre tall Nakaoka.
“We really focus on recovery. I talk with my trainer on the team and will get a massage after every match.
“Each meal plays a very important role as well.
“What also really helps are having ice baths. It can be very cold though! Lucikily it is just the legs, not the whole body. It still is freezing!”
A good result at the World Cup would lead to Rio 2016 as well. Japan won bronze in London 2012, just before Nagaoka’s time with the squad. She is far from shy about her ambitions for the tournament however.
“The main goal would be to be number one in Rio next year. But to get to that stage we need to concentrate just on World Cup right now.”
And four years after Rio is Tokyo. With the logo unveiled just yesterday, five years out from the event, excitement is already building in Japan.
“The logo is really cool! It really represents Japan with the colours and the look.
“I’d love to be there, but I don’t know what will happen in the future. But I would definitely love to be there.”