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Playing brilliantly as a member of Japan Women's Sevens, SAKURA SEVENS
Aiming for the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2017 World Cup

Chisato Yokoo

Chisato Yokoo’s first encounter with rugby was when she was a still first grader in elementary school. After she went to see her younger brother’s team play, she started practicing with the boys. She joined a club team when she was in junior high school, and was selected as a member for the All Japan Youth team. Yokoo went to a high school known nationwide for its strong rugby team, but was not allowed to join because she is a girl. So she ended up joining the boys rugby club of the attached junior high school. While she could not appear in official games and only participated in training and practice games, she focused on developing her tackling skills. She definitely did not want to be made a fool of in this situation where she was the only girl player among boy teammates that are younger than her.

Twelve countries in Asia participated in the ARFU Women's Asian Sevens Series in 2013. Japan defeated China in the final game to win the Asia Championship.

She had played on teams made up of 15 players since her childhood, but turned to rugby sevens when the sevens version of rugby became an official event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She was bewildered at first and looked back saying, “I had no experience with this kind of rugby and had not even seen a game until then. With half the players of 15-player version, the surrounding space feels different. Each player’s responsibility is bigger and a single mistake instantly results in losing a point to the other team. I felt like it’s a very severe sport.”

Yokoo is 164 centimeters tall; not exactly an ideal size for a rugby player. Yet she was selected as a member of the national team at 18 years of age because of her precision tackles. That was the moment her efforts among the male athletes were rewarded. Positioned on the front line as a forward when the team took the offensive, the expectations on her ability as a key offensive player were high. However, at the Asia Championship in 2011, her first international competition, the team came in fifth, and she was forced to recognize the gap between her and the stronger foreign athletes. “I felt a responsibility to take part in the game as a representative of Japan, and I wanted to go home with a good result. But, I was overwhelmed by their speed and power. I was disappointed to learn that after all my training, I still lacked in skill and physique.”

It has been three years since then. Yokoo trains as a member of the national team almost every day on weekdays and stays at a training camp every weekend. This intensive training paid off, and the team won the championship at the ARFU Women's Asian Sevens Series in 2013. At the Asian Games Incheon 2014, the team took second place due to it narrowly losing to China, and is rapidly developing into one of the top teams in Asia. However, this is not to say that their appearance in the Olympics has been guaranteed. “Only 12 countries can participate. Japan ranks 11th in the world, but the dream to go to Rio de Janeiro will be shattered unless the team finishes first place at the preliminary matches in Asia starting in 2015. In addition, my position as a representative member is not guaranteed either. Now I have to build up my body through harder training and be selected as a member. After that, my goal is to secure my ticket to the Rio Olympics by competing as a leading player.”

After graduation next spring, I will continue playing while working at an airline company, aiming for the 2016 Rio Olympics. She is also ready to pounce on a chance to appear in the 15-person Rugby League World Cup to be held in 2017. “I am playing in the rugby sevens now, but my dream was to participate in the World Cup when I was a child. Although it is going to be difficult to prepare as it will be held the year after the Olympics, I’ll do whatever I can to participate.”

She participated in a succession of overseas expeditions including a practice match with Australia’s national team in Sydney in June, the World University Championships in Brazil in August, an expedition to Hong Kong in August and September, and the Asian Games in South Korea.

Her team earned a silver medal at the Asian Games.

©JRFU,2014(photo by H.Nagaoka)
She always has a smile as she spends time with her classmates between the hard training sessions.


Chisato Yokoo
Fourth Year, School of Social Science

Originally from Tokyo, Chisato Yokoo graduated from Kokugakuin Kugayama High School. She belongs to the Tokyo Phoenix Rugby Club. She likes to give presents to her teammates on their birthdays. Most of her presents are made by hand while she is on the train.