Team Japan stunned wheelchair rugby fans across the country when they upset the #1 ranked Team Canada at the 2016 Canada Cup. Their victory was the first sign of a changing tide for the Canadian squad, who, by the conclusion of the tournament, had relinquished their International Wheelchair Rugby Federation standing and found themselves as sudden underdogs going into the Rio Paralympics.
Japan never looked back. They played well enough in the Paralympics to go home with their first Paralympic medal in the sport; a bronze. Not bad for a country that first entered Paralympic competition in 2004.
The Vancouver Invitational will mark Japan’s first return to Canada, and they’ll be looking to make the most of it. They’ve hired former Team USA & Team Canada head coach Kevin Orr to guide the ship. He’s known for his fiery disposition on the court, and was a good offseason pickup for the club.
Despite not playing with Daisuke Ikezaki (he’s with the Seattle Slam, his training club) Team Japan is still coming in strong with guys like Yukinobu Ike, Masayuki Haga, and Shin Nakazato. They’ve also added some new faces, like low-point player Kae Kurahashi. Japan tends to run a fast game, forcing opponents into wide coverage (at the risk of interceptions.) It’ll be interesting to see how Orr utilizes the strengths of Japan’s offence.
We’re only two days away! Can’t wait to see you there.