The Yomiuri Shimbun SOCHI—There are seemingly few reasons to bet on the Japan women’s hockey team, dubbed “Smile Japan.” The team is ranked No. 10 in the world, the lowest among all the teams competing at Sochi, and only one player has Olympic experience.
But while people in Japan may be forgiven for not expecting too much, captain Chiho Osawa and her teammates believe they can soar and even win a medal.
When Osawa participated in a send-off party for the Sochi Games in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, one participant told her in his speech: “Don’t worry about a medal. Just do your best in your group league matches.” When it came her time to make a speech, Osawa said in reply: “I appreciate your kindness. However, we’d like to work hard to win a medal.”
In Sochi, the 21-year-old said, “If I believe in our team’s future, other team members will follow suit.”
Osawa was chosen as captain in a vote among team members in December 2012. “Giving 100 percent is typical for her,” member Sena Suzuki said.
She uses her speed to get around the defense and take shots, technique highly praised by head coach Yuji Iizuka. She has good balance in her upper and lower body, as well as power and mental strength.
When team members were asked who has the strongest physical abilities and techniques, Osawa received the most votes in all categories.
Despite such praise, Osama remains modest. “I’m not a sophisticated player. Everyone is better than me,” she said. However, all team members regard Osawa as the pillar of the team.
Osawa’s father, Hirotoshi, also played on the national team. His team sought but failed to secure a berth in the 1992 Albertville Olympics.
Osawa recalled undergoing intensive training by her father when she was a third-grade primary school student. At that time, she had trouble receiving passes, so Hirotoshi decided to train her after school. “I used to cry every day,” Osawa said about the training, which lasted until she graduated from primary school.
Japan’s first match against Sweden was scheduled for Sunday. Osawa is determined to lead Japan to its first win in the Olympics, and even more.