We are only a few days away from the start of the XXIV Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. China has proven that they have deep pockets and have created unique venues using all the latest technology. Choosing a location where natural snow is not as abundant as in Niseko is risky business. Climate change is affecting the weather and snowfall, so the pressure is high on winter sports around the globe. Nevertheless, the Olympics are going ahead and on schedule, and we are very excited to watch the action. Not to mention, Beijing is the only city to date in the this world that has hosted both summer and winter Olympics! Japan will of course be participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics Beijing and have a team of great athletes who we will be watching closely. Below are some we have chosen to keep an eye out for.
Japan's long involvement in the Winter Olympics
Japan is an essential sports power that has been participating in the winter games since 1928 (the first Winter Olympics were held in 1924). The combined total of 58 medals, 14 gold, 22 silver, and 22 bronze ranks Japan in 16th place, just between South Korea in 15th and China in 17th place. Speed skating is the most successful sport with 21 medals, followed by ski jumping with 12 medals and figure skating in 3rd place with seven medals.
Japan's Beijing 2022 medal hopefuls
Nordic combined skier, Akito Watanabe, has two silver medals from Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018. He will be the national flag holder at the opening ceremony. The mogul’s ski team will be headed by the Pyeongchang bronze medalist Daichi Hara. Alpine skiing does not have any Japanese Olympic medallists competing in Beijing. To date, the only Olympic medalist in Alpine Skiing is Chiharu Igaya, who won silver in Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956 slalom event in Italy. Chiharu was born in Hokkaido and spent his youth studying and ski racing in the US.
Amongst Japan’s snowboarding athletes is notable medalist Ayumu Hirano from Niigata. He won a silver medal in the HalfPipe snowboard event after Shaun White in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. He also holds a silver medal from the same event in Sochi in 2014, when he was only 15 years old. Will this be the year he can finally win gold?
The men’s World Cup leader Ryoyu Kobayashi is expected to bring home a medal in ski jumping. Yukiya Sato, Naoki Nakamura, Junichiro Kobayashi and Daiki Ito will also compete in the men’s event. Bronze medallist from Pyeongchang Sara Takanashi is also a big medal hopeful and will be joined by Yuki Ito, Kaori Iwabuchi and Yuka Seto to complete the women’s squad.
Japan bidding for 2030 Winter Olympics
Japan has hosted the Winter Olympics twice in the past. The first time was in Sapporo in 1972 and then Nagano in 1998 when they won a record 11 silver and 9 bronze medals. Sapporo is bidding again for the 2030 winter games and has a high chance of winning. They have all the existing infrastructure and the arrival of the Shinkansen high-speed train will connect Sapporo with Tokyo. This makes for easy access to the games venues for spectators. There is also rumour that some events may be held in the Niseko United ski resort. If it is to go ahead, it will be an extremely exciting time for the resort. However, it is still a long way to 2030 so we will just have to watch this space. Meanwhile, let’s wish all the best to the athletes for the 2022 Winter Olympics Beijing. Let the games begin!
Head to the official Olympics website for a complete list of events with Japanese athlete participation.