Home Figure Skating News Sakamoto captures elusive gold in fifth trip to Skate America

Sakamoto captures elusive gold in fifth trip to Skate America

by Paula Slater
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2022 Skate America Women

Kaori Sakamoto of Japan competes in the Women’s Free Skate at 2022 Skate America on October 23, 2022 in Norwood, Massachusetts.

2022 Skate America – Women’s Recap

In her fifth appearance at this event, Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto captured gold in the Women’s discipline at 2022 Skate America on Sunday afternoon in Norwood, Mass. USA’s new-comer Isabeau Levito earned the silver in her Grand Prix debut, while teammate Amber Glenn maintained third overall to pocket the bronze. All the medalists maintained their positions from the Short Program.

Sakamoto gave a near-flawless routine to to Sia’s “Elastic Heart” which was choreographed by Marie-France Dubreuil. The only error came when she turned out the landing of a double Axel in combination with a triple toe that was two-footed. The 2022 Olympic bronze medalist otherwise delivered six clean triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe, and earned a level four on all three spins. She scored 145.89, and with 71.72 from her Short Program, easily maintained first place overall (217.61).

“I’m truly delighted about that,” said Sakamoto of her first time winning Skate America gold. “After the Short Program I was very determined to make sure I could to my triple-triple combination, so I was really focused on that.”

While the Olympics were indeed a milestone for the 22-year-old, she shared that she had pretty much planned on continuing competing, even prior to going to Beijing.

“It’s not that I waited for the Olympics to be over and then decided to continue,” said Sakamoto. “Rather, I always felt I would want to continue skating and it was never really an option for me to retire or to take a break after. I really wanted to continue.

Sakamoto has been competing on the senior circuit for six year and when asked about her thoughts on the triple Axel and the lack of women doing it in the free skate, she replied: “There’s definitely the risk for an injury, for female skaters, especially. If you have that injury, it could really impact your future career, so it’s really difficult to take that on. Of course, if you can execute it successfully, it gives you a very high score and there are definitely skaters who will take on that challenge. But I think with the way your body changes, it’s sometimes difficult to keep it up. Once you become an adult, it becomes difficult to keep jumping the triple Axel. I’m really amazed by the skaters who can do the triple Axel now, and I’d love to be able to do it, but I also think you cannot compete with youth.”

Levito turned out her opening triple Lutz and later stepped out of the back-end of a triple Lutz-triple toe, but was otherwise solid in her skate to “Dulsea Si Tandra Mea Fiara.” The 2022 World Junior Champion landed a solid triple Salchow and triple Flip and earned a level four on two of her spins to score 135.36 in the Free Skate. Her overall score was 206.66.

“It is my first Grand Prix and it was really cool it was here in front of a home crowd in America,” said Levito. “I feel like I did pretty good in my short program. My long program definitely was not as good as my short program in my opinion. I definitely made mistakes here, but I’m still pretty happy with the experience for sure!”

Per her coach, Levito has been pretty consistent in practice with her triple-triple jumps which didn’t translate during her programs as the back-end of both jumps were underrotated.

“I believe this is all pretty much all mental,” said the 15-year-old. “I feel like you can never be 100% in competition the way you are in practice, but it’s about getting as close as possible to that and just adjusting to a different environment, bright lights, a lot of people, and judges. It’s about kind of getting used to that so that you can perform the way you do in practice at the competition. That’s really the main goal.”

Glenn underrotated and put a hand down on her opening triple Axel, but landed six solid triple jumps in her passionate Free Skate to “Without You” by Ursine Vulpine. The  2021 U.S. national silver medalist, who earned a new personal best of 68.42 in the Short, placed third in Free Skate (129.19) and overall (197.61).

“I was a little overwhelmed when seeing the score,” said the 22-year-old. “It was my highest score since last Skate America, so I was very proud of that fact. Knowing….wow, imagine if I had done what I have doing in practice everyday! That would have been huge! Knowing that I didn’t feel 100% out there when I was skating and how much room for improvement, the possibilities are endless. It really kind of just blew my mind that I’m finally starting to reach my potential. All these thoughts just made me feel very overwhelmed and happy!”

“The Short Program was pretty good, but I feel like I left a lot on the table in the free skate,” she added. “There were some obvious mistakes and some not so obvious ones. I felt like I held back and played it safe, but I’m very happy with the result and proud to have my first Grand Prix medal.”

South Korea’s Haein Lee finished fourth overall (179.50) ahead of Poland’s Ekaterina Kurakova (178.68) and USA’s Gracie Gold (174.9).

Japan’s Rino Matsuike withdrew from the event due to illness.

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