First in 56 years: Japan’s Sakamoto claims world figure skating three-peat


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First in 56 years: Japan’s Sakamoto claims world figure skating three-peat

GOLDEN. Japan's Kaori Sakamoto performs in the women’s short program during the World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal.

Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Running fourth after the short program, an ‘anxious’ Kaori Sakamoto of Japan still dazzles in free skate to become the first woman since 1968 to win three straight figure skating world titles

Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto retained the figure skating world title with a stellar performance in Montreal on Friday, March 22, and became the first woman to win three straight crowns since American Peggy Fleming in 1968.

Sakamoto was in fourth place after the short program, but the 23-year-old’s dazzling free skate to “Wild is the Wind/Feeling Good” by Lauryn Hill helped her match 1968 Olympic champion Fleming, who won three world titles between 1966-1968.

Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Sakamoto’s run began with a double axel and a triple Lutz, before a series of intricate combination jumps brought thunderous applause from the crowd at the Bell Centre.

“I was fourth in the short program, so I was a little anxious about that, but today I was in a really good place emotionally,” said Sakamoto, who finished with 222.96 points. 

“I was able to calm down today. I was able to keep focused and do my elements one after the other and I am happy with this result.”

American Isabeau Levito, a world junior champion in 2022, won silver with a score of 212.16 while Chaeyeon Kim of South Korea took bronze with 203.59.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx, who led after the short program, finished fourth after falling while attempting a triple flip.

Earlier on Friday, veteran ice dance duo Madison Chock and Evan Bates scored a 90.08 for their rhythm dance routine at the world championships, putting the Americans on the cusp of a second consecutive world title.

Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri were in second after notching a 87.52, and home favorites Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada held third with 86.51 ahead of Saturday’s free dance.

Performing to music by Queen, Chock and Bates drew roars from the crowd for their smooth twizzle sequence, closing rotational lift and sassy attitude.

“We went out there, and I know it sounds cheesy, but to have the time of our lives,” said Bates. “We’ve been looking to a Montreal worlds for a long time. Being here for an 11th world championship, healthy and still enjoying it all, it’s the greatest victory of all.”

Chock, 31, and Bates, 35, relocated to Montreal after a disappointing finish at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.

They won their first world championship in Japan last year and their first grand prix final in December. –

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