Japan men’s hockey head coach Siegfried Aikman stated the gaffers will play a major role at the Tokyo Olympics. The Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to happen in 2020, was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tokyo Olympics will start on July 23 and conclude on August 8.
Currently, in Japan, Aikman is preparing his wards for the biggest test of their lives. Clubbed in Pool A along with defending champions Argentina, Australia, Spain, India and New Zealand; Japan are currently the lowest-ranked side in the group standings at 15th.
Aikman felt that the postponement came as a blessing in disguise for all the managers at the Tokyo Olympics. It helped the strongest minds in the sport to go online and grab some valuable inputs which will make the event interesting in July-August.
“Because of COVID, these coaches around the world went online and grabbed a lot of input from several other sports. I think Tokyo Olympics will be interesting this time because if coaches get well they will have an impact on the game. The only thing is that we don’t know what is on their minds and that makes it interesting,” Aikman told Sportskeeda.
The 62-year-old Dutch coach also felt that they had more of an advantage last year and were hoping to surprise their opponents in Tokyo. But with COVID wrecking havoc, all of their Tokyo Olympics plans went haywire, giving other teams more time to strategise.
“The plans have obviously changed because we were ready to challenge the world last year. But the COVID situation changed everything and gave other teams adequate time to recover from the busy schedule,” continued Aikman.
“Many teams were very tired because they had a tough schedule going into the Olympics last year. Teams were tired and coaches were busy, so they had very little time to explore things. I think that we had more of an advantage last year and that is gone now because the teams are now much more fit and fresh,” he added.
Japan need more gametime against European sides before Tokyo Olympics
Since 2019, Japan have competed internationally twice with the latest being the Malaysian tour. Although Japan rubbed shoulders with the likes of Great Britain and Malaysia, Aikman stated they need more matches against the European teams before the Tokyo Olympics.
“Before this Malaysian tour, our last international competition was in 2019. So it was a long time with no game time. The most important thing is that we need more matches. We hope to go to Canada this month for a five-match series,” he said.
Argentina is also supposed to come to Japan this month. This is also the same time the Japanese team leaves for Canada. If the Canadian tour fails to materialize, Japan will be playing Argentina at home for a few matches. He also stated Japan still have areas to improve and hope to be in the best shape before the Tokyo Olympics.
“We are focusing on our defensive play – our pressing and connections can be better. We have taken steps further but we need high level competition right now to fine tune and make the details better connected. The best comes when you practice against the opponents who don’t know what you do and are physically bigger,” he concluded.
With all the other teams in the group having high-level game time in the FIH Pro League matches, Japan is clearly on the backfoot but one can’t rule them out at the Tokyo Olympics. However, Japan have never been a part of the FIH Pro League.