Japan’s women’s curling team loses to Sweden in round robin at Games

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Japanese women’s curling team competes against Sweden in the round robin at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Thursday.

The women’s curling team lost to defending champion Sweden 8-5 in the round robin at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Thursday.

The Japanese team dominated the match’s first half, which is known as Loco Solare. Due to some mistakes made by the opposing skip, Japan ended the first half with a one-point lead, 3-2.

However, Japan’s skip, Satsuki Fujisawa, made a series of errors in the second half. In the middle of the final tenth end, Japan conceded defeat.

All smiles

The Loco Solare was characterized by the team members’ beaming smiles.

The team wrote a new chapter in the history of Japanese curling four years ago when it won bronze at the Pyeongchang Games, earning Japan’s first medal in the event.

Their innocent expressions and natural behavior, together with a mixture of dialects, made them hugely popular in Japan.

The team may have been comprised of the same members in these Games, but they went in with a different attitude.

“The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics were just fun,” Fujisawa said. “But this time, we competed with strength.”

The team members grew up in Kitami, Hokkaido, and the curling facility was their childhood playground. Their quiet lives in a small town suddenly changed when they returned home with a medal in hand.

Their success was heavily covered by the media. Tourists have visited the team’s practices. There was a period of time when they did not win domestic tournaments because they could not secure enough time for practices.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team could not travel abroad to international competitions. They felt they were falling behind their rivals, and impatience grew. There was talking of quitting.

What supported the team, however, was the four members’ desire to return to the world stage together.

“I’m happy to be able to compete on the biggest stage once again with this team,” Fujisawa said after qualifying for the Beijing Games in December.

Once on that platform, they played with smiles on their faces.