Japan announces streamlined Sudirman team

On Friday, the Nippon Badminton Association announced the team members for the upcoming next week. Among the surprises were Eriko Hirose leaving the squad, and the arrival of Shoji Sato as a coach in women’s singles.

Story and photos: Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent in Japan

After submitting a comprehensive list of 22 players to the Badminton World Federation (BWF), Japan made a final announcement on Friday of a streamlined, 12-member squad at a press event held at the National Training Centre in Tokyo.

The biggest surprise that came with Japan’s team announcement was a name missing in the women’s singles squad, as Eriko Hirose – the long-time top player in her home country – does not appear in the list given out to the press.  Instead, Japan will rely on French Open champion Minatsu Mitani and Australian Open winner Sayaka Takahashi.  In October, Minatsu became the first Japanese player to grab a Superseries singles title.  Meanwhile, Sayaka won her first Gran Prix Gold title this year, in addition to semi-final finishes at the Badminton Asia Championships and in Germany, where she bested none other than Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui.

In women’s doubles, another surprise was that Miyuki Maeda can be expected to pair up with Reika Kakiiwa instead of Satoko Suetsuna.  Reika’s previous partner Mizuki Fuji injured her knee late last year.  Maeda and Kakiiwa belong to the same corporate team and they have already featured as a pair in two international competitions this year.

After Japanese young players got two gold, two silver and one bronze medal in the 2012 World Junior Championships, the expected players joined National Badminton Team.  But while Kento Momota’s name was among the 22 submitted to the BWF, none of the youngsters are among the 12 selected in the final list for the team.

A final announcement was that Shoji Sato will join the coaching force after his long career as a player.

Japan 2013 Sudirman Cup team members:
MS: Kenichi Tago, Takuma Ueda
MD: Kenichi Hayakawa, Hiroyuki Endo, Noriyasu Hirata, Hirokatsu Hashimoto
WS: Minatsu Mitani, Sayaka Takahashi
WD: Misaki Matsutomo, Ayaka Takahashi, Miyuki Maeda, Reika Kakiiwa

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