Japan athletes leave memories with deeds, words as Olympics come to close

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Medal-winning figure skaters Yuma Kagiyama, third from left, and Kaori Sakamoto, fourth from left, pose for a photo during the closing ceremony.

The Olympic family returned to the national stadium known as the Bird’s Nest for a final farewell to the Beijing Winter Olympics, as two weeks of competition with more than its share of thrills, spills and controversy ended with a glittering closing ceremony on Sunday night.

About 70 members of the Japanese team participated in the ceremony, with women’s speed skater Arisa Go serving as flag-bearer as she did at the opening ceremony.

The athletes, donning their bright red winter coats with gray pants, walked around the stadium waving to the limited crowd and taking pictures of themselves and the venue. Bronze medal-winning speed skater Wataru Morishige beamed as he was carried by his fellow athletes.

Figure skater Kaori Sakamoto, also a bronze medalist, happily posed for keepsake photos with other athletes. There were scenes of athletes holding hands and jumping in a circle.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Japanese team enters stadium for the closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Sunday at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing.

Japan will leave Beijing 2022 with a total of 18 medals — three golds, six silvers and nine bronzes — for its best-ever showing at a Winter Olympics, eclipsing by five the previous best set four years ago at Pyeongchang.

The athletes who shone during their chance on the quadrennial stage left behind a variety of memorable quotes to go with their heroic performances.

Scoffing at the so-called “demons” that put great pressure on the Olympic favorites at the Olympics, ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi declared, “Maybe I’m the demon” after going out and capturing the gold medal in the men’s individual normal hill event. He then added a silver in the large hill.

Speed skater Miho Takagi pushed herself to the limit by competing in five events. After winning three silver medals, she finally struck gold in her final event, the 1,000 meters.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Olympic flame is extinguished in the finale of the closing ceremony.

“I gave it everything I had at the end,” the 27-year-old said after the victory. “Even if I didn’t win the gold medal, I’m happy knowing I raced in a way in which I have no regrets.”

Her beaming smile said as much.