At 26 years old, Yukari Mano is neither one of the oldest nor one of the most experienced players in the Japanese side but, since her debut in 2013, she has been an outstanding performer for the Cherry Blossoms.
An attacking midfielder, Yukari has been one of a number of players that Head Coach Anthony Farry has been building his squad around to a point where they are now challenging higher ranked teams for medal positions.
A first ever gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games and a second place finish at Ready, Steady, Tokyo, where the team finished ahead of higher ranked Australia and China, are both signs that Japan will be looking for medals at their home Olympic Games.
In this interview, Yukari talks about the forthcoming home Olympics and how her club coach in Japan has been instrumental in helping her develop her positive attitude and relentless determination on the pitch.
How are you feeling at the prospect of playing hockey in front of a home crowd at the Olympics next year?
Yukari Mano: “Needless to say, I have a special feeling towards the Olympics, especially since it is being hosted in my own country. But, moreover, for all teams participating and coming together to play at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, there will be a great meaning under the current circumstances where all medical professionals are battling at the front line while facing risks themselves. And through the conscious efforts made by every individual to overcome the challenges.
“I am very grateful for our situation where we can continue to play hockey and our goal has not changed. We will continue working as a team and build on what is needed to win a gold medal, while enjoying hockey to the fullest.”
Who first influenced you to pick up a stick and play hockey?
Yukari Mano: “I decided to play hockey when I went to the hockey field with my mom right around when I was starting middle school. I saw the players from Sony, which is my current team.”
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
Yukari Mano: “The person that has influenced me the most in my hockey career is my current team Head Coach Mr Yuji Nagai. Not only am I thankful for his advice about skills, but I am even more thankful for making me realise what is important, which is the attitude with which I should face hockey’s challenges.”
What moment on the pitch are you most proud of?
Yukari Mano: “The moment I feel most proud is whenever the team scores. I feel proud because I feel that it’s truly a result of what the team has worked towards.”
In recent months the Covid-19 situation has impinged on you and your team’s ability to prepare. How have you stayed connected as a team during that period?
Yukari Mano: “During the time we weren’t able to practice as a team we did things to maintain communication through online training and diary exchanges about our daily lives during the Stay Home period. I feel that sharing the training status or just how we were all feeling has really maintained our motivation levels.”
Profile*: Yukari Mano – Japan
Shirt number: 8
International appearances: 124
Place of birth:Kakamigahara, Japan
You can follow Yukari on Twitter and Instagram