Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Japan welcomes the world

Japan kicked off the 2012 Olympic Qualification Tournament in Kakamigahara in grand style this morning with an opening ceremony to welcome all the participants in the event.
  The ceremony was an extravaganza with fireworks, a marching band, dancers and a flyover by five Japanese military planes.
  Fans in the stadium were treated to the two flyovers from the jets, which are stationed at Gifu Airforce Base located within a kilometer of the stadium. Following the flyover the Japanese set off fireworks to officially start the ceremony.
  Members of the Organizing Committee and Kakamigahara government were on hand to formally welcome all the teams, which marched in a procession while the marching band honored them with a festive song.
  At the end of ceremony the teams departed the field and prepared to battle for the last two places at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
  The tournament begins today with all six women’s teams in action. Opening the tournament will be Chile vs. Belarus, that game will be followed by host Japan, and tournament favorite taking on lowest-seeded Austria. The day will conclude with Azerbaijan facing Malaysia.
  The men’s tournament begins tomorrow with all six teams playing their first round robin games of the tournament. The highlight of tomorrow’s game will be host Japan taking on the Czech Republic.

Women face tough time in Kakamigahara

By Ajitpal Singh

THE national women's hockey team will find it tough to make an impression in their first competition of the year at the Olympic Qualifiers which begins today in Kakamigahara, Japan.
  The team may have been training as a unit for a long time but they have not played international matches since last December's Sea Cup victory in Bangkok and the lack of match practice could hamper their progress in the qualifiers.
  The Malaysian squad spent a week in Seoul before heading to Kakamigahara last weekend, where they have so far had three practice sessions at the tournament venue.
  They will open their campaign against second-ranked Azerbaijan today followed by a match against favourites Japan two days later, Belarus (Sunday), Chile (May 1) and Austria (May 3).
  It will be tough against Azerbaijan as the former Russian state have several Korean-born players in their squad.
  Malaysia edged Azerbaijan 5-4 in their last meeting at a four-nation tournament in 2008 but the World No 15 have improved tremendously since. Coach Nasihin Nubli said his team were well prepared for the tournament.
  "We want to start the tournament on a winning note. Azerbaijan have improved so much but we have worked out some strategies and, hopefully, we can get a good result tomorrow (today)," said Nasihin yesterday.
  Japan, who won last year's Champions Challenge I, are expected to face either Azerbaijan or Belarus in the final on May 5 for the Olympic berth.