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Becoming the best in Japan with tears in their eyes after overcoming injury
The captain and the ace look back over four years of hardships

Basketball Club Women
Yuka Kanzaki (left)
Aoi Katsura (right)

1 minute and 15 seconds. This is the period of time that Kanzaki, captain of the women’s basketball club, was on the court during the 2014 All Japan Intercollegiate Basketball Championship. It sounds like a short period of time, but it bore the glorious fruits of four years spent at Waseda University.

In high school, Kanzaki served as captain of the team that won second place in the national championship. In college too, she was expected to play brilliantly and joined the women’s basketball club. In her second year, however, she tore a knee ligament, which required over half a year of rehabilitation. She managed a comeback, but suffered a meniscus injury the following year, leading to another long period of rehabilitation. “I didn’t want to go to the gymnasium.” She almost lost hope due to these repeated major injuries. “But one senior player who experienced a similar injury never complained. So, I wanted to try my best to definitely return to the court.” In 2014 after her rehabilitation, Kanzaki, who did not have the chance to appear in the game until then, was selected as team captain. The coaches and players all agreed to her selection. “Even when everyone concentrated on looking after themselves just after entering college, she had already had a feeling for leading the team. As she had the trust of both the senior and junior players, I couldn’t think of anyone other than her,” said Katsura, the team’s ace. “Kanzaki is annoyingly passionate. She is the opposite of me, so she confronted me, even though I reacted against her, and asked me to change. She made me what I am today. She changed my life.”

At the intercollegiate final game. Kanzaki, who had determined that she would never cry during a match, was tossed into the air in floods of tears after the game.
Photo: Kenji Shibata

Thanks in part to Kanzaki’s performance after she returned, Waseda won the first championship in the Kanto University Women League, and participated in the All Japan Intercollegiate Basketball Championship as the championship team. However, Kanzaki suffered from another injury just before the event. Although everyone despairingly thought that she wouldn’t appear and the team was depressed, Kanzaki was never negative. “If I look sad, everyone feels bad. So I decided never to cry but instead to support them one hundred percent.” Her efforts brought the team together again, and they won games steadily to advance to the final game. “We didn’t have the option of losing a single game. Kanzaki must be frustrated as she couldn’t play, but she consistently performed as the captain, smiling more than anyone else. So I wanted her to be standing on the court at the moment we became Japan’s best team.”

As Katsura said, in the final game, the team got a big lead over Hakuoh University, who themselves put in a creditable fight. With 1 minute and 15 seconds left on the clock, Kanzaki made her first appearance in the championships. “I watched the game thinking that the whole team was rock-steady, and I was happy to be on the team myself. So, I felt overwhelmed when I came to play at the last minute.”

Kanzaki experienced a moment of delight on court. The whole team overcame adversity together and won two championships, including the league’s. Katsura, however, had mixed feelings. “Finally, everything was over. We reached the top, but I was kind of sad as I would not have the chance to play in games with Kanzaki.”

With her eyes full of tears, Kanzaki repeatedly said, “I thank Katsura and my other teammates for supporting me.” Even though the team went through many hardships, they will never forget the victory they achieved during the last moments of their four years of college life.

Katsura, who scored 22 points in the intercollegiate final game, was named the tournament's most valuable player.

Under head coach Mikiko Hagiwara, team members in the women’s basketball club have rapidly grown after playing basketball in a way that uses their brains.

The two players sometimes visit each other on weekends.

(Offered By:WASEDA WEEKLY)

Yuka Kanzaki (left)
Fourth Year, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Fukuoka Prefecture, Yuka Kanzaki graduated from Nakamura Gakuen Girls' High School. She loves Tokyo Disneyland and goes whenever she can during her free time.

Aoi Katsura (right)
Fourth Year, School of Social Sciences

Originally from Tokyo, Aoi Katsura graduated from Ohkagakuen High School. Her hobby is shopping and she often shops in Shinjuku or Shibuya.