Joining the IWBF Players’ Commission as the male representative of the Asia Oceania Zone is Japan’s Paralympian Hiroaki Kozai. Kozai brings a wealth of experience to the Commission having played across the world in the USA, Germany, and Japan. He played college wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois and now plays for one of the top club teams in the world, RSV Lahn Dill in Germany alongside other world-class players, and he hopes his resume can add value to his role on the Players’ Commission. Kozai said:
“Being a bridge to players is one of the primary tasks, but not only that, I’d like to share my experiences and thoughts that I gained throughout my career.
“It’s a great honour for me. I believe that having another four board members is a step forward to greater development.”
33-year-old Kozai was part of the history-making Japanese team who won silver in their home Paralympic Games in Tokyo last year. Tokyo was his fourth Paralympic Games after competing in his first games (Beijing 2008) at just 17 years old. Commenting on how the sport has changed, he added:
“This sport has grown so much and there are so many great players/countries out there. I hope that the competition level keeps going high. At the same time, I’d like to see more countries playing this sport. We as the Players’ Commission can help out with this to introduce wheelchair basketball.”
Looking ahead to the future for the sport, Kozai believes that a united approach can help the sport overcome any obstacles it faces:
“Now, wheelchair basketball faces several challenges to overcome and players’ voices are essential. The Players’ Commission has great athletes with lots of experience and I’m sure we can work well with IWBF to overcome current challenges. We are much stronger together.”
Eight players will make up the new IWBF Players’ Commission, established to give international wheelchair basketball players a platform and a common voice in the governance of global wheelchair basketball. Paralympians Annegrit Brießmann (Germany), Hiroaki Kozai (Japan), and John Boie (USA), and 3X3 International Michelle Moganedi (South Africa) will join the original four players who were part of the IWBF Athlete Steering Committee – Ella Sabljak (Australia), Terry Bywater (Great Britain), Alhassan Sedky (Egypt), and Erica Gavel (Canada).