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Makiko's mission for women' s rugby in Japan

2010-11-24 15:46:00 OCA

24 Nov 2010, Guangzhou, China: Fantastic! That’s how Japanese rugby player Makiko Tomita described her Guangzhou Experience at the 16th Asian Games on Tuesday. With such a positive statement you’d expect Makiko to be returning home with a gold medal round her neck. But no. Japan finished fifth in the women’s rugby sevens tournament after losing to Hong Kong in the quarter-finals, a defeat that ended their hopes of a place on the medal podium.

Still, the 19-year-old freshman at the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo will be going home with happy memories – and renewed ambition to reach the top in Asia. “It was so fantastic because there was such a huge audience in the stadium,” Makiko said, shortly after Japan had beaten Singapore 31-0 to clinch fifth place at University Town Main Stadium.

“We played here in the Asian Women’s Sevens Championship a few months ago and the stadium was empty, but for the Asian Games so many people have come out to watch. It was quite a surprise and I was so pleased to see such a big crowd.

“When we played against Hong Kong we had difficulty communicating, and I have never experienced this type of atmosphere before. For this reason I would say it’s the best Games I’ve played in my life. We have had such great support during our time at the Asian Games, with a lot of people serving us and cheering us. I cannot believe it.”

Makiko, who plays at full back in 15-a-side rugby with Setagaya Ladies RFC in Tokyo but is a prop forward in sevens, was encouraged to take up rugby by her father, a keen former player himself. “I used to play basketball so was able to put the technical skills to use in rugby,” she says.

Such is her commitment to rugby that she even spent a year as an exchange student in Australia honing her skills and improving her English, which is now fluent. And when she returns to Waseda University she will be a student with a mission. “I will try to make a rugby team for next year, but I don’t know if I can do it because rugby is such a dangerous sport and there are many other sports in Japan such as volleyball and soccer.”

One attraction of international rugby is the travel, as this year alone the Japanese team has played matches in England, against the famous clubs of Saracens and Richmond, in Hong Kong, Singapore and twice in China.

“We really wanted to win the first Asian Games and be No. 1 in Asia,” she adds, “so we must develop our game. Our final goal is to go to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics Games in 2016.”

At 19, Makiko still has time on her side – and, living near Tokyo Disneyland, she knows all about dreams and happy endings.

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