Japan had to settle for the silver medal in women’s curling on Sunday, February 20, after a 10-3 loss to Great Britain on the final day of competition at the Beijing Olympics.
Despite the loss, it is Japan’s best Olympic result in curling, surpassing the bronze medal it won four years ago at the Pyeongchang Games.
Silver for Satsuki Fujisawa’s team also lifted Japan’s medal count to a record 18 medals – three gold, six silver and nine bronze.
Britain’s captain Eve Muirhead effectively sealed victory at the Beijing Ice Cube in the seventh end after knocking out Japan’s only red stone to score four and give her team an 8-2 lead.
Great Britain scored two more in the ninth and Japan conceded without playing the final end.
Sunday’s game was a rematch of the bronze medal game in Pyeongchang.
Four-time Olympian Muirhead missed a crucial shot in that bronze-medal game four years ago, but this time around she was at her best. She also fell short in the 2014 semi-final in Sochi, but eventually got her hands on the gold medal.
“It’s 30 hours of curling really worth it,” Muirhead said. “And of course during the week there are times when you think you’re not going to make it, but as a team we showed so much strength and determination and here we are on the podium with our gold medals.”
Great Britain had already taken a measure of revenge by beating Japan 10-4 in the round robin phase of the tournament.
Both teams finished the preliminary round with identical records of 5-4.
Starting with the final with the hammer, Muirhead opened the scoring with a brace.
Great Britain shut out the third to retain the hammer but only managed one in the fourth, missing a chance to score two with a heavy final throw.
Trailing 4-1 after the fifth, Japan had to settle for a goal in the sixth to make it 4-2, but that was as close as it gets.
“Today wasn’t our day,” Fujisawa said. “But I’m so proud of our team. I had a great time this week and I’m happy to get a medal.
The Japanese team, known as Loco Solare, qualified for the gold medal game by beating world champion Switzerland 8-6 in the semi-finals.
Despite the loss, the Japanese team of Fujisawa, sisters Chinami and Yurika Yoshida and Yumi Suzuki made a lasting impression on fans both at home and abroad.
Sweden, the reigning Olympic champions, beat Switzerland 9-7 on Saturday to win the bronze medal.
History of Women’s Olympic Curling
Women’s curling was a demonstration sport at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and made its official debut at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.
Canada won in Nagano, but Great Britain won the gold medal in Salt Lake City, prevailing in a last-ditch tie at the button known in Britain as the ‘Stone of Destiny’ .
Sweden won in Turin and Vancouver before Canada returned to the top step of the podium in Sochi 2014.
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Author: Jim Armstrong
The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles hereon JAPAN Forward.