The winningest team in the Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship, Japan returned to the top of the podium in the tournament on Saturday, when they triumphed in the 22nd edition of the event in Urmia, Iran.
The record tenth title won by the Japanese solidified them as the team to beat in Asia as it took them to the top of the continent for the first time since 2017, when they had last emerged victorious – the Ryujin Nippon also won the tournament in 1975, 1983, 1987, 1991, 1995, 2005, 2009 and 2015.
The Japanese, who finished ahead of other 16 teams in the continent, were perfect during the week in Urmia, winning all their five matches and dropping just one set. In the gold medal match, the team coached by French Philippe Blain downed two-time defending champions and hosts Iran 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-18).
Star captain Yuki Ishikawa was the main name of the Japanese victory, taking home the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award, repeating what he had done in the team’s last victory six years ago.
The Asian Championship Dream Team featured Iran’s setter Mohammed Taher Vadi, Iran’s opposite Amin Esmaeilnezhad, Japan’s outside hitter Ran Takahashi, Qatar’s outside hitter Wadidi Raimi, Japan’s middle blocker Taishi Onodera, Qatar’s middle blocker Belal Abunabot and China’s libero Yiming Yang.
In the bronze medal match, Qatar topped China in straight sets (25-23, 25-19, 25-18) to make it to the podium for the first time.
The victory at the Asian Championship adds to a season that was already very successful for the Japanese, who took bronze at the 2023 Volleyball Nations League and returned to the podium in a world-level men’s international volleyball event for the first time since 2009, when the Asians claimed bronze in the FIVB Grand Champions Cup.
Ishikawa and his teammates still have their last and most important challenge in 2023 as they will host a pool of the Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier from September 30-October 8. The Japanese will compete with the United States, Slovenia, Serbia, Türkiye, Tunisia, Egypt and Finland for two spots at next year’s Olympics.
Source : Volleyball World