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Kaori Sakamoto Makes History by Winning Second Consecutive World Title

Although Kaori Sakamoto didn't have her best outing, it was still good enough to win the gold and become the first Japanese skater to repeat as world champion.



Kaori Sakamoto
Kaori Sakamoto performs her rendition of "Elastic Heart" in the women's free skate program at the 2023 World Figure Skating Championships on March 24 at Saitama Super Arena. (ⒸSANKEI)

Read the full story on SportsLook - Kaori Sakamoto Makes History by Winning Second Consecutive World Title

SAITAMA ― Kaori Sakamoto staved off a stiff challenge from South Korea's Haein Lee to win her second straight title at the World Figure Skating Championships at Saitama Super Arena on Friday night, March 24. In doing so, the 22-year-old Sakamoto made history by becoming the first Japanese skater ― male or female ― ever to repeat as world champion.

Sakamoto held a lead of more than five points after Wednesday's short program and seemed assured of a second consecutive crown. But Lee did not make it easy for Sakamoto after putting on a scintillating performance in her free skate.

Although Sakamoto, who became the sixth Japanese woman to win a world senior singles title in 2022 after Midori Ito, Yuka Sato, Shizuka Arakawa, Miki Ando and Mao Asada, did not have the best outing of her career on this night, it was still good enough to get the gold and a piece of history.

Sakamoto landed six clean triples and earned level fours on two of her spins and step sequence on the way to victory.

World champion Kaori Sakamoto (center) celebrates on the podium with runner-up Haein Lee of South Korea (left) and bronze medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium. (Issei Kato/REUTERS)

The Kobe native's winning total score was 224.61 points. Lee finished with 220.94 to take the silver medal. Belgium's Loena Hendrickx, last year's silver medalist, settled for the bronze this time at 210.42.

Isabeau Levito of the United States, last year's world junior champion, was fourth on 207.65, while Mai Mihara, who was third after the short program, dropped to fifth with 205.70.

Rinka Watanabe in action in the women's free skate. (ⒸSANKEI)

Rinka Watanabe rallied from 15th place after the short program to come in 10th at 192.81.

Kaori Sakamoto Has a Solid Overall Free Skate

Sakamoto skated to "Elastic Heart" and was steady all the way with one exception ― when she popped a planned triple flip on the front end of a combination jump with a triple toe loop into a single. That is where Sakamoto's lead after the short program proved pivotal in the final standings.

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.

Author: Jack Gallagher

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 Twitter @sportsjapan.

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