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Kaori Sakamoto Becomes the First Woman in 56 Years to Win 3 Straight World Titles

Under the glare of the spotlight on the biggest stage, Kaori Sakamoto delivered a stirring free skate routine and completed an undefeated season in Montreal.

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Kaori Sakamoto
Kaori Sakamoto competes in the women's free skate at the 2024 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 22 in Montreal, Canada. (Eric Bolte/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Read the full story on SportsLook - Kaori Sakamoto Becomes the First Woman in 56 Years to Win 3 Straight World Titles

A poised performance under pressure carried Kaori Sakamoto to her third consecutive world crown and into the history books in the free skate at the World Figure Skating Championships at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, on Friday night, March 22.

With her third world title in a row, the 23-year-old Sakamoto became the first woman to achieve the feat since American Peggy Fleming did it from 1966-68, and also matched the iconic Mao Asada for number of world championship wins by a Japanese female.

After a less than stellar short program on Wednesday, Sakamoto found herself in fourth place heading into the free skate. But under the glare of the spotlight on the biggest stage, the Beijing Olympic bronze medalist delivered a stirring skate that brought the appreciative audience to their feet at its conclusion and completed an undefeated season for her.

Sakamoto's winning total score on the way to the gold was 222.96 points, giving her a comfortable margin of victory over American Isabeau Levito, who claimed the silver with 212.16.

South Korea's Chaeyeon Kim, who was sixth after the short program, vaulted onto the podium with the bronze at 203.59.

Kaori Sakamoto
Gold medalist Kaori Sakamoto (center), American runner-up Isabeau Levito (left) and South Korea's third-place finisher Chaeyeon Kim display their medals after the competition. (KYODO)

Belgium's Loena Hendrickx, who led after the short program, tumbled to fourth place on 200.25. Switzerland's Kimmy Repond took fifth at 196.02.

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Mone Chiba rallied to come in seventh with 195.46 after being 13th following the short program, while Hana Yoshida finished eighth on 194.93.

Kaori Sakamoto
Kaori Sakamoto (KYODO)

Sakamoto Sublime Under Massive Stress

Sakamoto skated to "Wild Is The Wing" and "Feeling Good" and landed six clean triple jumps in the triumph. She earned level fours on all of her spins and a level three on her step sequence.

The Kobe native stumbled slightly on a mohawk at the outset of the program, but the only real blemish on her scoresheet was an edge call on her second jump (a triple lutz). Sakamoto steadied herself and proceeded to move through the rest of her elements with panache.

After being the third skater in the final group of six, Sakamoto then had to wait to see if she would be victorious once again. Levito, Hendrickx and Haein Lee were not equal to the task, with each unable to summon the power and presentation necessary to overtake Sakamoto.

"I was a little impatient after being in fourth place in the short program, but today I was able to concentrate one by one with good tension," Sakamoto stated. "This result makes me happy now."

Added Sakamoto, "At the start of my performance, I accidentally caught an edge, but I managed to regain my composure and delivered a performance that left me satisfied. Once I landed the first double axel everything was OK again and I trusted my training."

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.

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Author: Jack Gallagher

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The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.

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