• Kyodo

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The Japan men’s curling team qualified for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Thursday after securing a combined top-seven finish at the ongoing world championship and last year’s worlds.

Japan will make its first appearance at the Winter Olympics since 1998, when it hosted the games in Nagano. Japan, which finished fourth at last year’s worlds, will finish at least eighth at the current tournament following Wednesday’s results in the 12-team round-robin.

Five-time defending Japanese national champion SC Karuizawa eased past winless Russia 12-4 before succumbing 10-2 to reigning world champion Canada.

Japan sits fifth, while Canada kept its perfect record intact and stayed top with its ninth straight win. Russia is last having lost all nine games.

Japan scored three and stole the fourth end as it raced to a 9-2 lead against Russia. Japan, ranked ninth in the world, went on to score its tournament-high 12 against the 10th-ranked opponent before the teams shook hands after the seventh.

But things weren’t as easy against first-ranked Canada, the winner of the last three Olympics. The decisive blow came in the fourth end when Canada scored five with the hammer, despite Japan seemingly making few mistakes, and the game was called after the seventh.

“I was left to aim at a space just the size of a stone, a pin-point shot all the way,” skip Yusuke Morozumi said. “The pressure was so much different (from facing Russia).

“It was a comprehensive defeat, the gap in accuracy showed. We need to get better to be like the Canadian players.”

Seven of the 10 places for next year’s Winter Games will be decided here.

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