After a 16-year drought, the Japanese women’s hockey team finally got back on the Olympic scoreboard today against Russia in round-robin play.
Just 33 seconds into the third period, Ayaka Toko launched a long-range shot through heavy traffic and past Russia goalie Anna Prugova to tie the contest at 1-1.
You can check out the long, or rather, very long-anticipated goal from Japan over on NBCOlympics.com.
Until Toko’s goal today, the most recent Japanese goal in an Olympics had come in a 6-1 loss to China on Feb. 11, 1998 during the Nagano Games (which they qualified for as the team from the host nation).
That was the last time the team – popularly known as “Smile Japan” – had been in Olympic competition prior to Sochi.
But it can be argued that Toko’s goal should have been more than an equalizer versus the Russians, who took the game, 2-1, and eliminated Japan from medal contention.
Earlier, toward the end of the first period, Japan appeared to have pulled even when Prugova mishandled the puck following a shot and it wound up crossing the goal line.
But the referees whistled the play dead, apparently believing that Prugova had covered the puck, and didn’t award Japan a goal. You can also visit NBCOlympics.com to see the controversial call.
Christie Rampone, the 40-year-old captain of the 2015 U.S. Women’s World Cup team, has yet to return to full fitness after December knee surgery and pulled out of a U.S. camp ahead of two pre-Olympic friendlies in June.
Her bid for a fifth Olympics, and to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player of all time, is in danger.
The camp begins Friday. The friendlies against rival Japan (which failed to qualify for Rio) are June 2 and June 5.
“I don’t feel 100 percent healthy enough to train and compete at that level,” Rampone said in a press release Tuesday. “I’ve been able to manage myself and contribute to Sky Blue [her club team] this season, which I will continue to do, but I also have an understanding of the level of fitness and health needed to push for an Olympic roster spot, and I know I’m not there right now. It’s not the right choice for myself or the team to put myself in that environment.”
Rampone, a defender, hasn’t played for the U.S. since her December arthroscopic knee surgery. At the 2015 Women’s World Cup, she played a total of 14 minutes.
The U.S. national team is currently without nine players from the 23-player World Cup team, though some are expected back for the Olympics, but only one of the missing other than Rampone is a defender (the retired Lori Chalupny).
The U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team for London was named in May 2012, but the Rio roster of 18 players is expected to be announced by early July.
VIDEO: Hope Solo ‘begrudgingly’ going to Rio Olympics
NBC Olympics and Fandango partnered for Fandango’s “I Love Movies: Rio Olympic Edition,” featuring swimming gold medalists Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Matt Grevers, among other Olympians and Paralympians.
Leading up to the Rio Games, NBC Olympics and Fandango plan to release episodes with dozens of athletes from gymnastics, track and field, diving, basketball rugby and Paralympic events.
Watch Lochte’s short film above and Franklin and Grevers reveal their favorite movies below.
Lochte, Franklin and Grevers will look to qualify for the Rio Olympics at the Olympic Trials in Omaha from June 26-July 3, with broadcast coverage on NBC Sports.
MORE: Full NBC Olympic trials broadcast schedule