When Japan was eliminated from the women's ice hockey tournament at the Beijing Winter Olympics, captain Chiho Osawa didn't have to face the heartbreak alone.
As Osawa struggled with the emotions of having played possibly her last Olympic match, she suddenly found herself surrounded by players from the Finnish team who rushed over to console their beaten opponent.
The 30-year-old Osawa has been team-mates with several of the Finnish players at Swedish club Lulea, and the Finns did their best to show their respect after Japan lost their quarter-final 7-1.
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As the two teams lined up on their respective blue line for the traditional post-game greeting, Finland's Michelle Karvinen could see that Osawa was in tears.
“Seeing her like that on the blue line really took me in the heart,” Karvinen told The Associated Press. “So as soon as I saw it, as soon as we said thanks for the game, I wanted to go and just give her a big hug.”
So did several other Finnish players, who took turns hugging Osawa and giving her words of encouragement.
“They say you have to be proud of it, and proud of the team,” Osawa said, recounting what the Finnish players told her. “I’m happy, but I really wanted to win, and want to play more games.”
Osawa has captained Japan since 2013, but this may have been her final chance at an Olympic medal.
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For Karvinen, the show of solidarity highlighted how sports are about more than just winning and losing.
“I think it’s one of the most beautiful things about sports. It’s the bonds you build both with teammates but also opponents throughout the years,” Karvinen said. “She’s probably the most humble player I have ever played with, just always working hard and treating people with so much respect. I really admire her as a person.”
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