Let's 55 Virtual Experience – Water Polo with ARAI Atsushi

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When Olympians and Paralympians showcase their incredible skill, what does it look like from their point of view? Many people probably wonder as they watch in awe as their favourite athletes compete for the biggest prizes. Tokyo 2020 introduces ‘Let’s 55 Virtual Experience’, a project that provides an innovative experience of what it actually looks like to compete as a top-level athlete, covering all 55 sports on the Tokyo 2020 Games programme.

Water Polo

Japan’s leading goal scorer, ARAI Atsushi - who took part in Rio 2016 - now aims to play in his second consecutive Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020. We asked Arai about his love of the sport, how he became involved and his hopes for Tokyo 2020.

But what do the surroundings look like from the eyes of Arai? Let’s try the virtual experience together.

Taking advantage of his compact physique to overcome his opponents

"Water polo is the only ball sport that is played in water. The most exciting aspect is the speed and dynamic action of the players who must play without their feet touching the bottom of the pool. I used to play football, but my older brother got me into water polo. Having experienced both sports, I realised that water polo is more of a ‘ball game’ than ‘swimming’. That’s another point that makes it interesting."

"My height is 168cm, which makes me rather small as a water polo player but that is actually my secret weapon. I use my small frame to confuse my opponents with swift movements before taking a shot. Scoring a goal is what is required of the left side position that I play, and my team relies on me. The Japan national team has speed, we’re detailed and precise. We constantly work hard, which is typically Japanese. There are some defensive systems that only our team uses in the sport. We are better than other national teams in those areas!

"I personally enjoy going up against players from other countries who are about 2m tall, thinking about how to play against them and beat them. We’ll receive a lot of attention at the Tokyo 2020 Games. I hope we can win and demonstrate how great water polo is. I would love to win a medal, but I also want to show that a small-built player like me can beat bigger players."