Otsu, Japan, March 24, 2017 – Japan captain Saori Kimura has retired from volleyball after playing her last match for her club, Toray Arrows, on March 5 and bowing out with an appearance at the V. League All-Star Game on March 25.
Kimura, who made her debut for Japan in 2003 and became a superstar in her home country, held a press conference to confirm her retirement at Toray Arena in Otsu on March 22.
“I’m glad to be able to announce my retirement at Toray Arena where I played for a long time,” she said. “I’m so appreciative of so many people who supported me and cheered me on. I wanted to show my appreciation in the last matches I played.”
Kimura, who announced she had got married late last year, played in three Olympic Games for Japan and won a bronze medal in London 2012. Her memory of that tournament is not the bronze-medal match but Japan’s 3-2 win over China in the quarterfinals.
“The win in that match really helped us to get a medal,” she said. “I was so impressed with the unity of the team at that moment. We were all united to win that match.”
Despite rumours that she was thinking about a move to beach volleyball, the 30-year-old Kimura, who spent two years playing in Turkey, is looking at a life away from the court.
“Volleyball gave me many opportunities and took me to places I never knew and playing has been my focus,” she said. “I’ve been playing volleyball since I was a child and it helped me grow up. But now I want to relax and enjoy being with my family as I start my ‘second life.’ ’’
After finishing her career at the All-Star Game, Kimura was presented with a bouquet of flowers by her sister, Misato, who is also a Toray Arrows player. The two sisters hugged and Saori made a short, tearful farewell to her fans.
Japan and Toray teammate Saori Sakoda expressed her gratitude to her namesake.
“It’s been a great pleasure and a source of pride to have played together at Toray Arrows,” she said. “Thank you so much for being a part of Japan's volleyball for such a long time.”Related article:Kimura plays last competitive match in Japan