Japan’s national team fencers are fired up for the upcoming Asian Championships as they seek to earn spots in the team competitions at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“Team competitions are more important at the Olympics,” Japan Fencing Federation managing director Nobusuke Miyawaki said on Wednesday during a news conference at Chiba Port Arena, which will serve as the venue for the June 13-18 Asian Championships.

“If you clinch a spot in the Olympic team competition, you can automatically earn a spot in your individual competition as well. With that in mind, we would like our athletes to win in their team competitions, becoming the best in Asia.”

Male and female fencers will compete in foil, epee and sabre, both in the individual and team competitions. The tournament will kick off on Thursday with the men’s individual foil and women’s sabre competitions. All team competitions will be held on the final three days of the tournament.

First-place teams will be awarded 64 points, while 52 and 40 will be provided to the runner-up and third-place squads, respectively. Podium finishers will be awarded 48, 39 and 30 points, respectively, in the individual competitions. Spots in the Olympics will be granted based on the points accumulated in the one-year trial period that began in early April.

According to the federation, “92 percent” of team competition gold medalists at the previous three Asian Championships have sealed spots at the Summer Games.

Kazuyasu Minobe, who is currently placed at No. 2 in the individual world rankings in the men’s epee, echoed Miyawaki’s sentiment, saying he would put emphasis on the team competition at this event.

“We the men’s epee (fencers) are in good shape right now,” said the 31-year-old Minobe, who posted an individual event victory at a World Grand Prix circuit event in Cali, Colombia last month.

The sixth-place fencer at the Rio Olympics added: “I’m looking for gold medals in both the team and individual competitions (at the Asian Championships), and for us to show the appeal of fencing and epee.”

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