Strange But True: Sports First, Spouses Later

The girls of the Kaizuka Amazons, a Japanese volleyball team, had no time for boyfriends. They got up early because they had to be at work in a factory by 8:00 am. They worked until 3:30, and by 4 in the afternoon they were practicing hard in an unheated gymnasium. Practice was over at midnight, and then the girls went home to get some rest so they could do the same thing the following day. Sunday was no holiday for the Amazons, because they practiced all day.

Often they were injured as they dived for the ball, skidded on the floor, or jammed their fingers against the ball. There were no extra benefits for their sacrifices, and their average salary was $50 a month. But they were dedicated to the sport.

For four years, starting in 1960, they were a winning team. They scored more than 100 straight victories. In 1963 the team won a world championship. Until that time, women’s teams from Eastern Europe had usually won that title.

In 1964 the Amazons entered the Olympics, and that was when all their hard work paid off. They went into the finals against the Soviet Union and beat them in three sets. The Amazons were Olympic champions.

In Japan the girls became heroines. When the emperor heard they had been training for years and had had no time to meet boys, he asked the whole country to help find them husbands. After that the men came flocking.

From The Giant Book of More Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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  1. Japan has some amazing volleyball players but these days don’t do as well on the world stage due mostly to height.  In the ’90s they had a sports college that was dedicated to training Olympic athletes and they sent their men’s team to Hawaii to play some exhibition teams.  Since we only had two universities that had teams in the same realm as them they decided to play a club team too.  They had not lost a single game in several years and never lost a match.  They dominated our two university teams but they didn’t realize the club team was a bunch of beach volleyball ringers.  Two of them were son & son-in-law of a woman I worked with so I got invited to watch the match.  They won the first set and were being kind of obnoxious in the celebration.  The club guys had never really played together as 6 so took awhile to get it going.  Finally in the second set they started clicking and hitting harder than these guys had ever seen.  At one point, Duke (my friend’s son) hit the ball in the nose of one of these players and knocked him out.  The ball bounced off this guys face and hit the roof of the gym harder than I could ever imagine hitting a ball.  The Hawaiian’s slaughtered them in set two and the coach said, “enough we are done, we will call it a draw.”  The Hawaiian’s were having none of it and pretty much told them you are not getting out of this gym alive if you don’t play the final set.  The last game was close for a short time but the Hawaiian’s were on fire and won.  Two guys from that team went on to play pro beach but most of them were just really good players that never even went to college.  Still one of the craziest matches I have ever witnessed.

    • The thing about the ball hitting off the guy’s face reminds me of when I played a fair amount of volleyball in my younger years, but never in an organized fashion.  I had an overhand serve that would clear the net and drop like a rock.  During one game, one of the opposing players in the front row was jawing with another player and not paying attention.  I kept warning them that they needed to stay focused or they were going to be in for a rude awakening (not sure why I cared so much because they weren’t on my team, but that’s how I was at the time).  Anyway, said player kept fucking around, so I just called the serve, hit the ball in their direction and BAM right in their face.

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