TOKYO – The women’s national team from the land of the rising sun is called “Smile Japan” and 21 players have all reason to smile after their nomination for the Olympic Winter Games.
Japan qualified for Sochi 2014 after winning a qualification tournament in Poprad, Slovakia, that also included Vancouver 2010 participant Slovakia as well as Norway and Denmark. 19 players from that team return when the Japanese head west.
It’s the first time the a Japanese ice hockey team has qualified for the Olympics since the 1998 Olympics on home ice in Nagano, the first time an Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament was played.
Not many players who competed in Nagano will be back but one of them will be Japanese defender Yoko Kondo, who will celebrate her 35th birthday during the tournament. Same as all other players she competes with a Japanese club team.
While Japan hasn’t appeared at Olympics since Nagano 1998, the women’s national team is no stranger to the top nations. Most recently it played in the top division of the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in 2008 and 2009 under coach Yuji Ilzuka, who took over the team in the 2007/2008 season. Eleven players for Sochi 2014 have competed in at least one of those championships.
Azusa Nakaoku, Toyota Cygnus
Akane Konishi, Kushiro Bears
Nana Fujimoto, Vortex Sapporo
Shiori Koike, Mitsuboshi Daito Peregrine
Yoko Kondo, Seibu Princess Rabbits
Ayaka Toko, Seibu Princess Rabbits
Kanae Aoki, Mitsuboshi Daito Peregrine
Sena Suzuki, Seibu Princess Rabbits
Mika Hori, Toyota Cygnus
Aina Takeuchi, Daishin
Tomoe Yamane, Toyota Cygnus
Haruna Yoneyama, Mitsuboshi Daito Peregrine
Yurie Adachi, Seibu Princess Rabbits
Chiho Osawa, Mitsuboshi Daito Peregrine
Moeko Fujimoto, Mitsuboshi Daito Peregrine
Rui Ukita, Daishin
Yuka Hirano, Mitsuboshi Daito Peregrine
Tomoko Sakagami, Mitsuboshi Daito Peregrine
Miho Shishiuchi, Toyota Cygnus
Hanae Kubo, Seibu Princess Rabbits
Ami Nakamura, Seibu Princess Rabbits