It looked like longtime Japan skip Ayumi Ogasawara had missed her chance at a fourth Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but she was handed another shot on Tuesday, this time in the new mixed doubles event.
The Japan Curling Association board of directors decided to grant the 38-year-old a wildcard entry to the March 1-5 mixed doubles national championships in Hokkaido.
The pair that wins the nationals is expected to compete in the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Canada in April, which doubles as an Olympic qualifier.
Ogasawara skippered the Hokkaido Bank team that finished fourth at the recent national championships, failing to qualify for next year’s Winter Games in the South Korean city.
Her long curling career has seen her as part of the Japanese women’s team at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City (ranked eighth), Turin in 2006 (seventh) and Sochi in 2014 (fifth). Her standing on the team was demonstrated by her selection as flag bearer for the Sochi opening and closing ceremonies.
The International Olympic Committee decided in June 2015 that mixed doubles curling will be added to the program for the Pyeongchang Games from Feb. 9-25, 2018.
In mixed doubles, teams have six stones each instead of eight, receive 22 minutes of thinking time as opposed to 38 and matches are fixed at eight ends, compared to 10 in traditional curling.