Northernmost Hokkaido city cheers on curling Olympians

Courtesy of Kanako Abe
Kanako Abe, center, gives Loco Solare members a Zumba dance lesson in November 2020.

WAKKANAI, Hokkaido — Loco Solare, Japan’s national women’s curling team at the Beijing Winter Olympics, frequently visited Hokkaido’s northernmost city of Wakkanai for training camps and curling events.

Now fighting hard in the round robin games of women’s curling, Loco Solare has received mental and physical support from Wakkanai residents in such forms as meals and dance lessons.

Mia Takeshige, 36, who runs a guesthouse in the city, often cooked meals for the team members.

When the curlers asked for nutrient-rich fare, she delighted them by serving bowls of “salad-style chirashi-zushi,” in which slices of avocado and pieces of mizuna leaf are mixed into sushi rice.

The members also asked for fewer deep-fried foods and vegetables as main ingredients. Based on their requests, Takeshige prepared lunch and dinner bento every day for a two-week period leading up to the September 2021 competition in which the team won the right to represent Japan at the Games.

Courtesy of Mia Takeshige
Loco Solare members enjoy meals prepared by Mia Takeshige, right, in February 2021.

She took care to cook meals that would provide the athletes with plenty of protein and carbohydrates. Her menus included such dishes as pasta with venison and soup with salmon and asari clams.

At a press conference at the time of the September competition, Loco Solare member Satsuski Fujisawa, 30, expressed gratitude for the foods, saying, “Meals fit for athletes have empowered us.”

Takeshige cheered them on, saying: “The athletes showed bright faces even while eating, and they were attentive to one another. I hope they get a lot of nutrition and do well in Beijing.”

Loco Solare members eased their tension before the national team selection competition by doing Zumba, a style of exercise in which participants dance to music such as Latin numbers.

Kanako Abe, 30, an instructor living in the city, taught the members how to dance.

Chinami Yoshida, 30, another Loco Solare member, was quoted as telling teammates, “It’s better not to use too much shoulder power in either sweeping [the ice with a brush] or dancing.”

Abe said, “Whether they are dancing Zumba or competing on ice, their smiles attract people around them and make us happy.”