The 21st Olympic Winter Games begin on Saturday (Japan time) in Vancouver. Athletes from a record 82 countries and regions will participate, competing in 86 disciplines in seven sports. This is the third time that Canada has hosted the Olympics, after the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. We look forward to the excitement of watching the world’s top athletes compete.
Japan has sent 94 athletes — 49 men and 45 women — to Vancouver, fewer than the 113 athletes it sent to the 2006 Turin Winter Games and well short of the 166-strong team that competed in the 1998 Winter Games held in Nagano, central Japan. This time, Japan failed to meet qualifiying standards for some events.
In the Turin Olympics, Ms. Shizuka Arakawa, who won gold in figure skating, was Japan’s only medalist. Ms. Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s Chef de Mission for the Vancouver Olympics, who took part in four winter Olympics and three summer Olympics, has set a rather ambitious goal for the Japanese team. She hopes that Japanese athletes will perform as strongly as they did at the Nagano Games, where they grabbed 10 medals, five of them gold.
The Japanese team for Vancouver includes many veteran athletes, including 45-year-old Mr. Kazuhiro Koshi (skeleton), 38-year-old Ms. Tomomi Okazaki (speed skating), and 39-year-old Mr. Takanobu Okabe and 37-year-old Mr. Noriaki Kasai (ski jumping). Their participation in the Games, which has been made possible by taking good care of their own bodies and following meticulous training regimens, will give spiritual encouragement to many Japanese.
The anticipated duel between Ms. Mao Asada and Ms. Kim Yu-Na of South Korea in figure staking promises to be a highlight of the Vancouver Games. The Japanese team also includes other strong figure skaters, such as Ms. Miki Ando.
In winter sports, a momentary mistake such as losing one’s balance can undo long years of effort. Mental strength and the ability to overcome pressure play an important role. We hope all athletes will be able to display the full extent of their talents.
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