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Figure Skating

Kaori Sakamoto Wins Gold by Big Margin at Grand Prix Final

Showing why she is the best in the world, Kaori Sakamoto displayed beautiful line and edge during her free skate routine in the Chinese capital.

Two-time world champion Kaori Sakamoto added another notable achievement to her growing resume by winning the Grand Prix Final for the first time on Saturday night, December 9 in Beijing. 

The 23-year-old star, who earned the bronze medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, scored a dominating victory by more than 22 points with a solid free skate.

Sakamoto's winning total tally was 225.70 points, easily outscoring Belgium's Loena Hendrickx, who took the silver with 203.36. A fabulous free skate from Hana Yoshida brought her the bronze, and nearly the silver, as she moved up from fourth place after the short program with a score of 203.16.

Belgium's Nina Pinzarrone, who was third after the short program, slid to fourth to finish on 194.91. Isabeau Levito of the United States was fifth with 191.86, while Rion Sumiyoshi came in sixth at 180.39.

The 23-year-old Sakamoto skated to "Wild Is The Wing" and "Feeling Good" and landed six clean triples while earning level fours on all of her spins and step sequence. 

Sakamoto's quality of skating this night showed why she is the best in the world as she displayed beautiful line and edge during her routine.

Kaori Sakamoto
Kaori Sakamoto (KYODO)

Third Time's a Charm for Kaori Sakamoto

The triumph brought Sakamoto her first medal at the senior GPF on the third attempt. She was fifth last year in Turin, Italy, and also fifth in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2018.

"I am really happy that I won the France GP and Finland GP and now the Final," Sakamoto stated. "This is very exciting. I have reached my goals."

Kaori Sakamoto
Grand Prix Final winner Kaori Sakamoto (KYODO)

Sakamoto credited her strong beginning to the season for her success.

"This year I had a good start with the Grand Prix, so I really wanted to keep it going like that," Sakamoto commented. "Being able to get first place everywhere until the Final became a strength for me. I think it will make me feel confident going forward."

Hana Yoshida (KYODO)

First Major Championship Medal for Yoshida

Yoshida was judged a quarter rotation short on her opening triple axel to "Shakuhachi" and "La Terre Vue Du Ciel," but did hit seven triples. The 18-year-old from Nagoya notched level fours on all of her spins and a level three on her step sequence.

"Today's performance felt really good, so I'm happy that I was able to win a medal," Yoshida remarked. "I was able to deliver what I've been practicing, so I think I improved in terms of my program."

Yoshida added, "Although my axel was under-rotated, I went for it with the feeling of definitely landing it. I am a little frustrated about the ‘q' but I think I did all I can right now."

Rion Sumiyoshi (KYODO)

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Sumiyoshi Unable to Land Quadruple Toe Loop

Sumiyoshi competed to "Enchantress" and hoped her quad toe loop would vault her back into the medal picture, but it wasn't meant to be. She tried it but ended up nearly falling as she was credited with a downgraded triple.

The 20-year-old Sumiyoshi did land five triples and recorded level fours on all of her spins and step sequence.

"I think it was a competition with a lot of learning opportunities," Sumiyoshi noted. "It was my first [Grand Prix] Final, so I was able to experience what a Final is like. I think it was a competition that raised my level of experience a lot, leading to nationals and also next year onward as well."

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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 X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.

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