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Muscular dystrophy group backing Japanese men's curling team with custom T-shirts

Members of Green, a muscular dystrophy patients' group, display T-shirts they designed for curlers from SC Karuizawa Club, now representing Japan at the Pyeongchang Olympics, at Misayama Hospital in Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, on Feb. 13, 2018. (Mainichi)
Curlers from SC Karuizawa Club, now representing Japan at the Pyeongchang Olympics, are seen at a news conference wearing T-shirts designed by the muscular dystrophy patients' group Green. (Photo courtesy of Noriko Otani)

UEDA, Nagano -- A muscular dystrophy patient's group here is showing its support for the Japanese Olympic men's curling team -- a squad also hailing from Nagano Prefecture -- with specially designed T-shirts for the curlers as they compete in Pyeongchang.

Tomokazu Abe, the 39-year-old head of the group "Green," said of the curlers from the SC Karuizawa Club in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, "I'm cheered up by seeing them play. I believe they can win a medal as long as they do their best."

Green was founded by patients at a rehabilitation center of Misayama Hospital in the city of Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, in May 2009. The group is aimed at providing its members "something to live for through social involvement" despite their illness, and designs T-shirt and business cards.

Green and SC Karuizawa Club first struck up a relationship through a designer working with the patients' group and their friend, an interpreter for the curling club. The pair proposed that Green "work for the world," and the group made a training T-shirt for the curlers in 2013. The club had few sponsors at the time, and they hoped to raise funds by selling the T-shirts.

Green went to the club's matches to cheer, while the players visited the hospital to explain the rules of curling and about the club. Masahiro Takahashi, a 28-year-old member of Green, said, "Members of the club are all friendly. I'm glad to support the athletes.

For the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, last year Green made a T-shirt with the curlers' silhouettes and a golden stone, symbolic of the hope for a gold medal. Green sent a flag with messages to the club this past January, and the club returned a picture of the members holding the flag. After arriving at the Olympic venue, the club sent a movie of the site to Green, along with the determined words, "Thank you very much. We'll do our best."

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