Photo/IllutrationSatsuki Fujisawa, center, and her teammates during a match against South Korea at Gangneung Curling Center on Feb. 15 (Nobuhiro Shirai)

  • Photo/Illustraion

GANGNEUNG, South Korea--Satsuki Fujisawa’s big smile has proved a hit in a country accustomed to the serious and emotionless faces of its athletes.

Fujisawa, skip of the Japanese women’s curling team, first gained attention among the South Korean public when Japan defeated the popular home team 7-5 in the preliminary round on Feb. 15.

Many online posters expressed regrets about the results of the match. However, compliments also poured in for Fujisawa on social media, and her name occupied the top ranks in search words on Naver, South Korea’s largest portal site, for two days.

Positive words spread over the Internet from South Koreans impressed by Fujisawa’s smile and body language that showed she was simply enjoying the competition while cheerfully leading and creating an upbeat atmosphere for her team.

A sporting loss, especially to Japan, can cause anguish in South Korea, where athletes are expected to make arduous and demanding efforts--without smiling--in their drive toward victory.

The online posts about Fujisawa led major media outlets in South Korea to quickly produce segments about her career, personal motto and other information.

“South Koreans have a sense of animosity against Japan in sports. But I think she is a lovable person,” said a South Korean photographer, 51, who took photos of Fujisawa during Japan’s win over Sweden on Feb. 19.