Japan teams celebrating Olympic qualification after 20 years

  • Yusuke Morozumi at the World Men's in Edmonton, Canada Photo © WCF / Richard Gray

Japan have fielded a women’s and men’s rink once before at an Olympic Winter Games – 1998 in Nagano, when they were the hosts. Some 20 years on, an impressive male team have re-joined a consistently strong women’s side in a bid for medals in Pyeongchang next year.

Perhaps, the most successful achievement to date for the Japanese Curling Association was Satsuki Fujisawa’s rink winning silver at the Ford World Women’s Curling championship 2016 in Swift Current, Canada.

This was the first Japanese team in any curling discipline to reach a world final. Fujisawa has since followed that up by being the most recent team to qualify for the Olympic Winter Games, having won a best of five series against her opponent’s team lead by Chiaki Miramatsu.

Results from that series can be found here, www.curling.or.jp/result/trial/pyeongchang2017/pyeongchang2017-result.html

Fujisawa’s team are third Chinami Yoshida, second Yumi Suzuki, lead Yurika Yoshida and alternate Mari Motohashi

On the men’s side Yusuke Morozumi’s team – made up of third Tetsuro Shimizu, second Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, lead Kosuke Morozumi and alternate Kohsuke Hirata – qualified having finished within the top seven at the 2016 and 2017 World Men’s Curling Championships. The fourth-place finish in Basel, Switzerland in 2016 was Japan men’s best ever finish at a world event.

We spoke to both teams ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, in the next of our Olympic curling team features…

Mari Motohashi (team founder and alternate)

Q How does it feel to go into these Olympics?

As both men’s and women’s team are qualified this time, we are doubly happy.

We are really proud to participate in the Olympic Games as a representative of Japan with cheers from the other teams from Japan who have not qualified.

Q What are you looking to take away from the Games?

From our plays and for ourselves, we’re looking forward to feeling that Japanese curling is at a higher level in the world.

Q Do you have nicknames within the team and what's the story behind them?

In our hometown of Tokoro, Kitami, we are called “Loco Solare”. It means “Local Sun” if translated directly. With the hope to play like sunshine, we were named this way.

Q What music do you listen to prior to events?

It differs among the team. Mostly we listen to Japanese and world pop but not Enka [Japanese traditional style ballad] yet.

Q What career would you have if you weren't a curler?

This question is really fun to imagine as our interests other than curling are really different from one another. As for myself, I believe I would be abroad for study.

Q What does each member of the team get most serious about?

• Satsuki Fujisawa - The most serious for savings
• Chinami Yoshida - The most serious for communications from team to others
• Yumi Suzuki - The most serious for managing and handling money
• Yurika Yoshida - The most serious for controlling team’s schedule
• Mari Motohashi - The most serious for raising her son

Q Greatest achievement as a rink?

Playing curling with these members in my local town and getting a ticket to the Olympics.

Yusuke Morozumi: www.facebook.com/yusuke.morozumi.1

Q How does it feel to go into an Olympics?

It is such an honour to participate in the Olympic Games. We will enjoy the games with our best and good performance.

Q What are you looking to take away from the Games?

Showing the supreme performance that we have with each other. We would like to increase the interest for curling among Japanese people.

Q Do you have nicknames within the team and what's the story behind them?

I am called “Ojisan” (old guy) as I am the oldest in the team and always have a pain somewhere on my body.

Q Where's the best place you have visited as a curler?

Edmonton in Canada

Q What career would you have if you weren't a curler?

I would probably just be an ordinary father.

Q What team do you have the most fun with on and off the sheet?
I would say Team Edin from Sweden.

Q Greatest achievement as a rink?

To achieve a ticket to the Olympic Games for Japanese men’s team after 20 years.

In the run-up to the 2018 Olympic and  Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea we celebrate the success of the curling qualifiers heading to the Games in (8-25) February and (9-18) March. 

In the coming weeks and months, we will speak to the athletes that have been selected or qualified to represent their Member Association in the Gangneung Curling Centre.

To follow the build-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #Roadto2018 #curling

by Michael Houston, feature writer