Chinami Yoshida: The Determination Behind the Shining Smile in Curling at Beijing Olympics

On February 20, 2022, at the women’s curling finals, Japan’s Loco Solare lost at a score of 3-10 against Great Britain, and took home the silver medal from the Beijing Olympics.

By Takaomi Matsubara

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Women’s curling team (Loco Solare) with the silver medal, a historic-high second place for Japan (photograph by Naoya Sanuki JMPA)

On February 20, 2022, at the women’s curling finals, Japan’s Loco Solare lost at a score of 3-10 against Great Britain, and took home the silver medal from the Beijing Olympics.

Although defeated in the finals, the team won its second medal in a row following the bronze at the PyeongChang 2018. The feat has a great significance for the Japan’s curling world, and above all, proves the steady progress of the team in the four years leading up to Beijing 2022.

However, the silver medal was not the only mark the Japanese women’s team in curling left at the Beijing Olympic.

“Nice Sweep!”: The Positive Attitude of All Smiles

During the matches, the way they call out to their teammates or talk among each other, and the cheerful expressions, all left a lasting impression, not only for the Japanese but also for other countries’ players and team staff. It is well known that the team set “Stay Positive” as their motto at the PyeongChang Games, but their positive attitude was also present in Beijing.

Lead Yurika Yoshida and second Yumi Suzuki, the team’s powerful sweepers, received countless calls of “Nice sweep!” and their responding “Thank you!” was also heard repeatedly across the ice. Even when things did not turn out right, they kept up the encouraging words and expressions. Their attitude stood out from the other teams.

Yet, this is not because they are cheerful or being themselves. After competing in the finals with Great Briton, third Chinami Yoshida said,

“I think anyone can look distressed or in pain on a tough, challenging stage, but to enjoy the [tough] situation, I guess you need to be determined.”

Her comment suggests the team developed the positive style with intentions. Then, what does being positive create? Yoshida also said in December 2021:

“If you feel nervous on the ice, say it out loud. It’s important for the team that you don’t carry the load by yourself or be depressed. That’s what we came up with in the last four years.”

If the whole team shares the anxiety or pressure, it helps to reduce it. By sharing, the members will know each other’s conditions, and reflect that on how they play. At the foundation of that consciousness lies a deep ingrained spirit of invariable acknowledgement for each other. That is why they are thoroughly positive regardless of the game situation. It has become the team’s unique feature and its greatest strength.

In various games, skip Satsuki Fujisawa had also made similar comments—appreciating how the words from her teammates encouraged her, or how they generated an atmosphere to let her throw smoothly.

Compliment from Other Teams: “Really Enjoy Playing Against Them”

This attitude of Japanese women’s team in curling received compliments from other teams competing in the Beijing Olympics. A player from the Swedish team that won the bronze medal said, “You are all wonderful. So You’ll be okay.” Skip Eve Muirhead of the British team that won the gold medal said, “We love the Japanese girls. They’re so much fun and we get on so well with them. They just love curling and that’s fantastic for the sport.” Both players express their honest praise towards Japan’s national team.

It is noteworthy that, even more than their performance, the state of the team had a firm presence.

One reason behind the compliments on the style of the team was definitely the way the Japanese team always showed respect to the other teams. The players often commented openly on their respect towards the other teams or the players they admire, and showed it when they met them. Praising the British team with smiling faces was a symbolic scene of their attitude.

Team Japan Shows the Culture and Tradition of Curling

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When we look from the other side, it is not just the Japanese team. We could see that curlers in other teams that applaud Team Japan also have feelings of respect for their rivals. None of the teams defeated by Japan showed disregard to the results, even if they felt disappointment. They offered to shake hands, and if they met on the way out of the venue, they would wish them luck for the next match.

This must come from the culture of the sport, curling. I think so because this can be seen in the preamble to the Rules of Curling, “The Spirit of Curling.” Here are some quotes from the section:

“Curlers play to win, but never to humble their opponents. A true curler never attempts to distract opponents, nor to prevent them from playing their best, and would prefer to lose rather than to win unfairly.”

“Curlers never knowingly break a rule of the game, nor disrespect any of its traditions. Should they become aware that this has been done inadvertently, they will be the first to divulge the breach.”

“While the main object of the game of curling is to determine the relative skill of the players, the spirit of curling demands good sportsmanship, kindly feeling and honourable conduct. This spirit should influence both the interpretation and the application of the rules of the game and also the conduct of all participants on and off the ice.”

The Shining Positiveness of Team Japan in Beijing

After the ninth end in the finals, Japan admitted their loss, and the match ended. In this act that seems like giving up, the English word “concede” is used, meaning “to give over.” Curlers give their best efforts, but if the opponent performs better, they offer to shake hands in respect. This also shows the tradition of curling—having “kindly feeling and respect” towards the opponent.   

As the positive attitude of Japan’s national team came under the spotlight, the unique style of the game of curling, such as the mutual respect among the teams and the friendly rivalry, also attracted attention. In the Beijing Games, various negative happenings occurred and that may be one reason the light was shed on curling. 

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