The last time she was in a gym, it was filled with noise and joys of being champion. Former Pierce College women’s volleyball player and state tournament MVP Sakurako Fujii who was apart of Brahmas last state championship has now moved to greater things by becoming part of Japan’s National Beach Volleyball team. By making the team, she now puts herself in position to potentially being apart of the 2016 Olympics.
“It is a dream come true,” Fujii said via Skype from Tokyo. “I tried really, really hard and all my hard work has finally paid off.”
Fujii hasn’t stopped working on her game since leaving the gym at Fullerton College and helping the Brahmas clinch their third state title in a row in 2012. Since then she has gone back to Japan to work on her beach game and has also competed all around the Pacific Ocean, traveling all the way to the U.S. territory Guam to playing in tournaments on70s the island of Okinawa, an island known more for its rich history in martial arts then it is beach volleyball.
Yet maintaining the same discipline and training regiment in Japan as she did at Pierce has brought her one step closer to being on the biggest stage in the world in 2016 when the summer games are played in Rio De Janeiro. Fujii’s former coach, Nabil Mardini thinks that Saku can be a legitimate contender in making the Olympics.
“Saku has all the tools,” Mardini said. “She’s smart, she’s very intelligent and she is really crafty. That is what you need in order to become a great beach volleyball player more then anything. To try to turn nothing into something. There is no doubt in my mind that she can compete with the world’s best.”
When asked “You mean like competing against players at the level like Kerri Walsh?” He nodded his head calmly and with confidence. It’s might be bold words from maybe any other coach, but coming from Coach Mardini he has the accreditation to back up those words up. Considering he’s won 12 conference titles and three state championships, when all is said and done maybe establish himself as the greatest coach in Pierce College history. So comments coming from the esteemed coach are anything but cheap.
For Saku as well it wouldn’t be the first time that a Pierce athlete has become an Olympian especially in volleyball. Former Brahma Riley Salmon who played men’s volleyball was on the 2004 Athens team and the 2008 Beijing team that won the gold medal. Marv Dunphy one of the greatest coaches in US Volleyball history and inducted into the world volleyball hall of fame in 2009 started the men’s volleyball program in the 70s and then coached Team USA to Olympic gold in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Athletic Director Bob Lofrano thinks it’ll be difficult for Saku though who plans to come back to America and compete in major beach volleyball events to try and qualify for the Olympics.
“I think it’ll be hard for Saku,” Lofrano said. “She is an amazing talent, but she’s going up against former Division I college athletes. I hope she does well, but it’ll be very hard for her.”
All things considered, Fujii seems to be up for the challenge. Back in Tokyo she goes to school and from school she takes an hour train ride to the beach everyday afterward and practices her game for three hours.
Saku never one to back down from a challenge relishes her opportunity.
Simply put, “I think I can do it,” Fujii said.