Support for Japan skip Fujisawa always just a stone’s throw away

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Satsuki Fujisawa, center, and Chinami Yoshida, right, smile after receiving the silver medal in women’s curling at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday.

Skip Satsuki Fujisawa of the Japanese women’s curling team that earned the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics has always had the support of teammate and third Chinami Yoshida at her side.

Both are from Kitami, Hokkaido, and Fujisawa, known as a curling genius, participated in the World Junior Curling Championships as a high school student. Yoshida, meanwhile, took part in the Japan Curling Championship when she was a junior high school student as a team leader, and helped defeat the team that eventually competed at the Olympics.

Fujisawa and Yoshida have been recognized, by both themselves and others, as rivals.

They both left their hometown but later returned, and following many personal twists and turns in their mid-20s, they became teammates with the Hokkaido club team Loco Solare.

Mari Motohashi — who was a member of the national team at the 2006 Turin and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — established the squad in August 2010 in Kitami after the Vancouver Games at a local curling association with the financial support of an organization made up of volunteers.

Motohashi formed the squad after leaving Team Aomori in a neighboring prefecture, and returned to her hometown of Kitami.

The motive for these moves was the sense of concern about seeing curlers from Hokkaido depart the area for teams in other prefectures because of their better-coordinated support system for athletes.

Yoshida is determined to be part of the team support system for her skip, and be “Sacchan’s buddy” for life.

“The skip is a position that can easily make players feel alienated. If we don’t all support her, she won’t be able to execute those winning shots,” Yoshida said.

Fujisawa also expressed gratitude to Yoshida, saying, “I appreciate China because she always gives me words of positivity.”

Meanwhile, Loco Solare’s reserve Kotomi Ishizaki, 43, became the oldest Winter Olympic medal winner in Japanese history on Sunday, surpassing Noriaki Kasai’s record of 41 years old. Kasai, a ski jumper, earned silver at the 2014 Sochi Games in the men’s individual large hill and also picked up a bronze in the team competition.

Ishizaki joined Loco Solare after the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, at which the team took bronze.

She competed at the Salt Lake Games in 2002 as well as at Vancouver, with Japan ranked eighth both times.