Updated: 02/02/2014 19:17 | By Agence France-Presse

Japan women ice hockey team keen to emulate football success

Japan's women ice hockey players, who have made it through to the Olympics for the first time in 16 years, are looking to emulate their country's World Cup winning footballers in Sochi.

Japan women ice hockey team keen to emulate football success

Ayaka Toko (L), Haruna Yoneyama (C), Azusa Nakaoku (2nd from R) Sena Suzuki (R) of Japan fight for puck with Line Ernst (2nd from L), Maria Olausson (3th from L) of Denmark during an Olympic qualification match in Poprad on February 10,2013 - by -

Despite being complete outsiders in a sport dominated by the United States and Canada, Japan's Hanae Kubo said the 2011 women's World Cup triumph was an inspiration.

"Seeing the football player Homare Sawa help Japan win the World Cup, that was an inspiration for me to start playing again," said Kubo, who has returned to the sport after quitting.

"I had no motivation in 2010. Japan did not qualify for anything for five years. 

"Then when we qualified for the Olympics I felt ready for the big stage again. I wanted to help the team again."

Kubo, a 31-year-old forward, believes the small stature of Japanese players could be a benefit against the powerful north Americans and Europeans.

"We are small both in terms of the size of the players and as a country playing ice hockey but we have speed and skills and that is to our advantage," she said.

Only one woman in the Japan squad -- Yoko Kondo -- has ever appeared in the Olympics.

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