Osaka-born Sato enjoying dream to play in mom’s country

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BaliPure Water Defender Risa Sato is a joy to watch when at play. She celebrates every point her team scored with the excitement of a child given her most desired toy. (Photo by Justine Dizon)

Born and raised in Osaka, Japan, Risa Sato left her dad’s country when she was 19 so she could pursue her dream to play in her mom’s.

And she has been playing in the Philippines ever since she arrived in 2014, first for the Ateneo Lady Blue Eagles in the defunct V-League, for flag and country next in the Asian Under-23 Championships held in Manila and later in the VTV Cup in Vietnam, and presently for National University where she’s now a second year sports and wellness management student, and for the BaliPure Water Defenders in the ongoing Premier Volleyball League Open Conference.

In halting Filipino, the five-foot-10 middle attacker, now 22, claims to have played competitive volleyball in elementary and high school in Japan, a traditional world power in the sport.

“I wanted to play in another country, especially in the Philippines, so my mom and I moved back here,” said Sato while her left foot was being bandaged in the locker room prior to BaliPure’s match against Hair Fairy Shampoo-Philippine Air Force. “I’m glad I am able to continue playing here. I enjoy it very much that I am now a member of the NU squad and of BaliPure in the PVL.”

A first-rate first stringer in the trailblazing league organized by Sports Vision in cooperation with Asics as official league partner and Mikasa as official game ball, Sato averages 13.37 points in BaliPure’s six games so far with a total production of 79 points.

It’s hard not to notice her when she’s on the floor. She’s the only one among the players from eight teams who exuberantly celebrates every point she or her teammate scored in the manner of a child given her first toy even if it’s already a lost cause.

Her joy is genuine as she makes small jumps three or four times while giggling and clapping, her feet landing almost on the same spot. Or she would embrace her nearest teammate, drop to her knees while covering her face with both hands as if suppressing a big laugh whenever she sends a weak third ball over the net and which lands untouched inside the opposite court for an unexpected point.

Or in utter glee, she’d swing a leg to give a scoring teammate a soft shove on the butt like when teammate Jerrili Malabanan also made an unexpected point on a weak toss over the net.

Off the court, Sato, according to NU and BaliPure teammate Jorelle Singh, is a happy person.

For one whose Filipino is still limited and whose English even much more so, the youngest of three daughters of an otosan (the Japanese word for father, Sato told this interviewer) who designs bags and other crafts and accessories, is, Singh continued, “makulit, maingay at takot sa ipis.”

Sato is a fan of Vice Ganda, Enrique Gil (she swooned while saying Gil’s name), and Anne Curtis. Of the local dishes, she’d prefer pinakbet and sinigang anytime.

Her okasan (mom) had long returned to Osaka to join her dad, but Sato said she doesn’t feel homesick anymore. One of her sisters is also studying here and her cousins from Laguna would sometimes pay her a visit at the NU athletes quarters to eat out, shop, or watch a movie.



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