The biggest event in women’s hockey is back and this time the Winter Olympics is playing in Beijing. For the first time, 10 teams instead of eight will be taking the stage and will be fighting for the gold, silver, and bronze medals. While there are obvious winners in the mix, there are some underdogs that are ready to represent and make their country proud.
Canada and the U.S
Gold and silver will most likely go back to one of the best rivalries in hockey. Although in 2019 Finland upset the Canadians in the IIHF Women’s World Championship to win silver, it’s obvious that the Canadian’s are going to do everything in their power to prevent a loss like that from happening in 2022.
Before the Olympics, Canada and the U.S had a rivalry series that pitted the nations against each other many times. Both nations practicing against the best in the world many times before the biggest tournament was defiantly a boost that would get them ready. Canada beating Switzerland 12-1 was a showcase of what they learned from the Americans. Although it’s been either Canada or the U.S in the finals, it would be a safe bet to say they will be in the finals again.
For the rest of the teams, bronze will be their gold. Unlike the gold and silver medals, the bronze has gone to different countries almost every year. Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland have all claimed bronze in the past and some of those countries will be looking at the bronze medals once again.
Finland is the favorite. The country has built up its women’s hockey program and most of the players play in their domestic league, Naisten Liiga. However, they will be without their star goalie Noora Raty. Raty has been with the team for two out of three of the nation’s bronze medals and was the goalie for the 2019 team that beat Canada. There hasn’t been an announcement because she is at least a backup goalie.
Russia, officially called the ROC this Winter Olympics, will also be a contender for bronze as well. Despite the nation’s lack of past feats, the country has developed women’s hockey in the past few years. The number of players that the nation hosts tripled in a few years and is still going strong with women across the nation signing up. With them being the fourth seed in the tournament there is a good chance that they will be one of the two nations fighting for a bronze at the end of the tournament just like in 2018.
Although Switzerland is also in the contention of a medal, they will have an uphill battle. They will need to focus on their matches against Finland and ROC after their terrible loss against the Canadians.
Group B contains the lesser five countries that although they have qualified, are much more unlikely to medal. The group contains Sweden which has fallen from grace in the last few years and even isn’t in the top division in the IIHF Women’s Championship.
Out of all the five teams, the most likely champion out of the group will be Japan. The nation has a strong women’s hockey presence and has developed its programs to be among the top of the world. Most players on the team play in the All-Japan Women’s Ice Hockey Championship but veteran Chiho Osawa players overseas in Sweden Lulea HF in the Sweden Women’s Hockey League.
Denmark and Czechia will be making their Women’s Winter Olympics debut. Although Czechia had a strong debut downing China 3-1 it will be a tough hill to climb. Denmark has recently called the top division in the World Championships home and has showcased that the nation will probably be back in the Winter Olympics soon.
Last, and probably will be last China. Although China has played in the Winter Olympics before in women’s hockey, even getting fourth in 1998, their team will be played by the KRS Vanke Rays which is a team in the women’s Russian league, Zhenskaya Hockey League. Although the team will stay in group stages it’s unlikely, they will face the same level of defeat as their male counterparts.
With that, the 2022 Winter Olympics have started for the women. Whatever happens, there are 10 nations that will pave the way for the next generation of women, and really that is what sports is about.
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