Japan women’s ice hockey team leads the way to Beijing

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of the women’s ice hockey team walk inside Haneda Airport in Ota Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday.

The Japan women’s ice hockey team flew to Beijing on Thursday morning, ahead of other Japanese athletes who will compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics from next week.

The 23-member team is nicknamed Smile Japan and is led by Chiho Osawa, who has been appointed team captain for three consecutive Games.

Players and officials gathered at Haneda Airport in Tokyo wearing masks and the Japan national team’s official uniform. They walked through the airport terminal, which was quiet due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, to the security control area.

The team will face Sweden in its first game in the preliminary round on Feb. 3, one day before the Games open.

Japan is sending 124 athletes to the Beijing Olympics, its most ever to a Winter Olympics held overseas. This figure tops by one Japan’s previous record for a Winter Olympics, which was set at Pyeongchang in 2018.

The majority of Japan’s national team members will assemble at a ceremony on Saturday and fly to Beijing on Sunday.