Tokyo – While our women of Team USA crushed it on their way to a gold medal in volleyball there was a Houston area resident playing an unseen but critical role at the Ariake Arena.
Irin Toh is a 2020 graduate of Bellaire High School. She has served as a volunteer for volleyball matches in Tokyo.
“We prepare the locker rooms for athletes,” Toh said. “When they leave we clean up and get it ready for the next team to come in.”
There were supposed to be thousands of volunteers from around the world for these games but once a state of emergency was placed over Tokyo the number dwindled dramatically as foreigners weren’t allowed into Japan. So how was toh able to make it in?
“I was actually born around here in Shizuoka. it’s like two hours from here,” she said. “I’ve also lived in Tokyo for a few years.”
Because she has Japanese citizenship -- the Houston-raised college student was able to travel as a volunteer. The work has been constant -- especially when there were six matches a day in the preliminaries.
“Obviously because of corona we can’t really have any contact with the athletes either,” said Toh. “So it’s pretty interesting to work around those restrictions.”
Toh and her fellow volunteers have been able to watch some of the matches -- but it’s usually back to work right away. However it is an experience she says she will never forget.
“The opportunity to be able to part of something this big, especially during corona,” she said. “I know it’s really hard to make all this possible, especially because a lot of volunteers could not make it.”
Toh will start her second year at the University of Texas just a few days after she returns from Tokyo. She plans to double major in international studies and math.