Nations Cup Ranking: 18th (353 pts)
Men: 16th (163 pts)
Women: 19th (190 pts)
2010/2011 A Team (Best estimate)
What you may have missed last season:
Two years ago, during the 2008-2009 World Cup season, the Japanese ski team made history. Masako Ishida became the first Japanese national to win a World Cup medal by finishing third in an exciting battle in the 30k in Trondheim, the same day Alex Harvey made Canadian history by also placing third. However, in 2009-2010 on the World Cup, Ishida was shaky at best finishing in the top 10 just once. However, she fared better at the Olympics, saving her magic for another attempt at the podium when it mattered most – but ultimately coming up short and finishing 5th in the 30 k. If you want to know how your favorite Canadian male will do at at a big race, watch Ishida – there seems to be a slight correlation.
The best of the men’s team was Yuichi Onda, a strong classic sprinter. Despite being sub-par for the majority of the season, he peaked for the Olympics and cracked the heats to finish in the top 20 in the classic sprint. He then rode that peak to the classic city sprint Drammen, and on the same day Andy Newell finished on the podium, the 30 year old journeyman cracked the top 5.
What You Should Know For This Season
There is no reason to think Japanese success is just a flash in the pan. Much like the Canadians and Americans have done in the past few years, the Japanese have been building their squad around a few incredibly talented athletes (Ishida and Onda), and are now working to bring up the level of the others to where they can field a consistently strong team.
Also, despite being 33 years old, retired, and never having had a standout World Cup season or race, Masaaki Kozu has intensity written all over his face in his FIS profile picture, so the FasterSkier staff is unwilling to write him off completely.
Who You Should Watch
The on man to keep your eye on has to be Nobu Naruse. This past season the 25 year old he was always on the bubble, finishing from 25th to 40th spot a whopping 10 times. Che will be able to throw down consistent fast skate sprints, and at least get some experience.