Japan’s women’s ice hockey national team, currently ranked sixth in the world, has secured a berth in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the Japan Ice Hockey Federation announced on Monday.
Smile Japan will be competing in its third straight Winter Games.
The squad got in just under the wire, with the International Ice Hockey Federation awarding automatic berths to the top six teams in the latest world rankings, which were released Friday. In addition to Japan, the top-ranked United States, Canada, Finland, Russia and Switzerland also had their tickets punched. China was also given a spot as the host nation. The remaining three teams for the Olympic tournament will be decided through qualifiers.
”Our goal for the season was getting the Olympic berth by being in the top six in the world rankings,” Japan coach Yuji Iizuka said in a statement released by the JIHF. ”This is the result of our efforts to set higher goals through the 2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. It is disappointing the world championships in Canada were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but we want to think positively that we earned the berth based on our past efforts.”
On the men’s side, the top eight teams in the world — Canada, the United States, Germany, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Finland and Sweden — and host China were given spots in the 12-team competition. The Japanese men are ranked 24th.