Finns comfort Japanese captain after winning quarterfinals at the Olympics


Beijing (AP) — After the match, as players gathered on their respective blue lines to praise their opponents, Finland’s Michelle Karvinen soon saw Japanese captain Chiho Osawa becoming emotional along the way. I noticed.

Karbinen temporarily set aside the joy of Finland’s advance to the Olympic Women’s Hockey Semifinals after defeating Japan 7-1 on Saturday. She led a group of teammates to the neutral zone and comforted Osawa. Osawa became known and respected by the Finns while playing with her in the Swedish league Luleå for the past three years.

“I was really fascinated when I saw her that way on the blue line,” Karvinen said. “So, as soon as I saw it, as soon as we thanked the game, I wanted to go and give her a big hug.”

One by one, six Finns skated before the group hug. And it almost choked Osawa along the board near the penalty box. Some tapped the captain’s head, while Ronya Savolainen wrapped her arm around Osawa’s neck, letting everyone say words of encouragement before leaving the ice.

What surprised Karvinen was that he knew the pain of being eliminated at the Olympics.

“It’s probably the worst moment in my career,” she said. “So it was really important for all of us who knew her to be able to go there right away and show her comfort.”

The Beijing Games turned 30 on Thursday, and it wasn’t lost to Finns that it could be the third and last for Osawa, who has been captaining Japan since 2013.

“I’m really honored to get to know her,” said Finnish captain Jenny Hirokoski. “She is a really good teammate and she is a good person. She is proud that she has led Team Japan here.”

Japan finished in 6th place for the third time in four Olympic appearances, and Finland played against the United States in the semi-finals on Monday.

There are many rivals in hockey between countries, such as Canada and the United States, Finland and Russians or Swedes. In sports where women have limited play, bonds are formed between players.

Apart from the Swedish League, Russia has a Women’s League and North America has a Premier Hockey Federation. It is mainly made up of North Americans, but is trying to attract more international players.

The pandemic has also disrupted the schedule, limiting the number of times competitors can meet in the last few years.

“I think it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the sport. It’s the bond you build not only with your teammates, but with your opponents over the years,” said Carbinen.

“She is probably the most humble player I have ever played, always working hard and respecting people very much,” she added. “I really respect her as a person.”

Her eyes were still noticeably red with tears, and Osawa spent a long stretch to interview the media after the match.

“They say you should be proud of it and you need to be proud of the team,” Osawa said in English about what the Finns told her. “I’m happy, but I really wanted to win. I want to play more games.”

Then she turned to team officials for translation when asked how meaningful it was to be comforted by her opponent.

“I am very happy and proud of them,” Osawa said through an interpreter. “I hope they win the next match.”

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