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Olympics and Paralympics

Japan Falls Short to World No. 1 Sweden in Women's Curling Opener

Satuski Fujisawa's foursome had its chances but couldn't take advantage.

Japan squandered a chance in the penultimate end and lost 8-5 to defending champion Sweden on Thursday, February 10 in its first game of the women’s curling tournament at the Beijing Olympics.

Japan, the 2018 Pyeongchang bronze medalist, led 3-2 after the fifth end, but allowed Sweden to take three points in the sixth and gave away another three in the eighth.

With Sweden ahead 8-4, skip Anna Hasselborg had a chance for a double takeout in the ninth end, but couldn’t capitalize.

With three stones in the house, Japan skip Satsuki Fujisawa could have scored four with a takeout, but misplaced her final shot and could only secure one point in the ninth end.

Unable to make up the three-point deficit, Japan conceded with two stones left in the 10th and final end.

“The condition of the ice was different from the official training,” Fujisawa told Kyodo News. “We put them under pressure in good fashion in the first half but the [sixth end] steal after the halftime hurt the most. We’ll reflect on today’s performance and have a good game next time.”

Hasselborg gave the defending champions a commanding 8-4 lead with a draw in the eighth end that took out Japan’s No. 1 while giving her team three big points.

Japan secured a spot in the Beijing Games in December with an 8-5 win over rival South Korea in the Netherlands.

After Sweden, Japan next faces Canada on February 11, then both Denmark and South Korea on February 12.

Sometimes referred to as “chess on ice,” curling is also known as “the roaring game” because of the sound the stones make traveling over the pebble (droplets of water applied to the playing surface).

As with many winter sports in Japan, the northern island of Hokkaido produces most of the country’s athletes. 

Fujisawa is from Hokkaido as are the other three members ― Yumi Suzuki and sisters Chinami and Yurika Yoshida.

The Japanese women’s team is currently ranked seventh in the world.

Olympic Tournament Info

In the preliminary round, 10 teams play a round-robin tournament, and the four best teams advance to the semifinals and the medal matches.

Japan’s intense rivalry with South Korea has fueled some of the popularity in the sport.

South Korea won the silver medal on home ice in Pyeongchang four years ago.

South Korea’s women, also known as “The Garlic Girls,” edged Japan 8-7 in a thrilling semifinal in Pyeongchang before Japan went on to defeat Britain for the bronze.

Highlights from Beijing Opener

Sweden got its first point in the second end. Fujisawa made a draw, but the Swedes secured their first point when their last stone ended up closer to the button.

Japan took the lead on the last stone of the third end when Fujisawa’s draw gave her team two points.

Japan made it 3-1 with a steal in the fourth end.

Sweden cut the lead to 3-2 on a well-placed draw by Hasselborg in the fifth end.

Sweden scored three big points in the sixth end to make it 5-3 when Fujisawa’s draw came up short.

Japan beat Sweden in the preliminary round at the Pyeongchang Games but couldn’t repeat another upset on Thursday.

RELATED: Ready To Roar: Japan Women’s Curling Team Looking to Take It Up a Notch in Beijing

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for more than 25 years. You can find his articles here, on JAPAN Forward.

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