- 競技、試合（後出 Tokyo Games は東京五輪のこと、sport は競技）
- thrust ～ into the spotlight
- prominent name
- have ～ on one's side
- make ends meet with ～
- at one with ～
- sort of ～
- seek (→sought)
- give back
Courting Olympic Success
A game with roots on the streets — 3x3 basketball — will be making its debut as an Olympic event at the Tokyo Games this summer, in a development that has thrust top Japanese player Ochiai Tomoya into the spotlight.
Ochiai, 32, originally played traditional five-person basketball, but he is now a prominent name in the new sport. Though some people may focus on the similarities between the two types of basketball, Ochiai points out, "3x3 and five-person basketball are completely different things."
In 3x3 basketball, two teams of three players score points using a single hoop. Each game is 10 minutes long, which is one-fourth the length of a five-person basketball game. The court is a little smaller than half the size of a traditional court, and players quickly change offense and defense roles. Coaches do not give instructions, and individual ability and judgment become more important than in five-player basketball, where team plays are crucial.
Ochiai reveals that the reason he began playing 3x3 was "partly for fun," because he had been invited to play by someone he knew. At 195 centimeters tall, he had height on his side, and even played five-person basketball on the U24 Japan national team. But because there were no professional teams in Japan when he graduated from college in 2010, he took some distance from basketball. He aspired to become a model, but he was considered too tall, and ended up making ends meet with part-time jobs. That was when he encountered streetball, or 3x3.
Playing at school festivals and nightclubs made him feel at one with spectators, and he experienced the sort of excitement that he had felt when he first started playing basketball. At games, he was sought out to be a leader, which gave him the sort of satisfaction that he couldn't get otherwise. He regained his passion for basketball.
Starting in 2012, Ochiai began going on overseas tours, playing against the world's top players. That experience brought his ranking up to No. 1 in Japan. In 2018 he helped Japan win its first bronze medal at the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup.
"3x3 changed who I am. If I had simply continued to play five-player basketball, I wouldn't have come as far as I have," says Ochiai. "It's kind of like I'm giving back to this sport, but I want to win a medal." (Continued on page 4)
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