Vancouver (AFP) -
Japan, which managed just one Winter Olympic medal in 2006, vowed on Monday to restore their pride with a record-matching performance at the Vancouver Games.
"Our athletes have worked hard for four years, aiming for the highest spot," Japan's chef de mission Seiko Hashimoto said.
"I cannot tell exactly how many. But It is quite natural for our delegation to try and match our best ever result we achieved at the Nagano Games," she told a news conference.
Japan collected a record 10 medals, including five golds, on home ice and snow in Nagano in 1998.
But their medal haul slipped to one silver and one bronze in 2002 and to only one at the Torino Games through the gold captured by Shizuka Arakawa who became Asia's first Olympic champion in figure skating.
The 2006 heartbreak was made more acute by the performances of their great Asian rivals as South Korea won 11 medals, including six golds, while China also claimed 11 medals, two of which were gold.
"I think our athletes seem relaxed," said Hashimoto who met Japanese moguls competitors earlier in the day, including world double women's champion Aiko Uemura and 1998 Olympic gold medalist Tae Satoya.
"I believe they will live up to our expectations."
Uemura, who has finished second twice but failed to win a race so far in the season's World Cup series, is keen to make the podium for the first time in her four Olympic outings.
Uemura is due to compete in women's moguls on Saturday, the first full day of competition at these Games.
"It will be great if she (Uemura) feels it has turned out to be her best Olympics. It will give a momentum to the whole delegation," said Hashimoto, now a senator, who won a 1,500-metre speed skating bronze in 1992.
In Vancouver, Japan's medal hopes are once again pinned on figure skaters as two former world champions, Mao Asada (200
and Miki Ando (2007) take on reigning title-holder Kim Yu-Na of South Korea in the women's event.
The men's figure skating team is led by 2007 world silver medallist Daisuke Takahashi, who is joined by Nobunari Oda, the runner-up to world champion Evan Lysacek of the United States at the Grand Prix Final.
Japan are also looking forward to the Nordic Combined event after winning the world team title last year for the first time in 14 years.
Keiichiro Nagashima hopes to lift Japan back from a Speed Skating medal drought in Torino.