Home Figure Skating News Kaori Sakamoto takes third consecutive World title

Kaori Sakamoto takes third consecutive World title

by Paula Slater
Krystal Yeung
Kaori Sakamoto takes third consecutive World title

(L-R) Isabeau Levito (USA) silver medalist, Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) gold medalist and Chaeyeon Kim (KOR) bronze medalist pose with their medals at the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships.

2024 World Figure Skating Championships: Women

Kaori Sakamoto of Japan convincingly took her third consecutive world title in Montreal, Canada, on Friday night. USA’s Isabeau Levito maintained second to win the silver, while Chaeyeon Kim of South Korea rose from sixth to claim the bronze.

Kaori Sakamoto

The defending champion opened her eloquent short program with an excellent double Axel, but then received an edge call and turned out the landing of a triple Lutz. She also had a waver on one her steps which resulted in a level three. Nevertheless, the triple flip-triple toe was solid, and she picked up a level four on all three spins to finish fourth (73.29).

“I am disappointed,” said Sakamoto. “So many mistakes after another. I didn’t feel bad nerves today, I was actually feeling relaxed. I was like ‘too much practice’ and couldn’t switch properly to ‘competition mode.’ I know I cannot afford a mistake in the free skate. After the skate, my coach and I looked at one another and our glances said: ‘That didn’t go well.'”

The 2022 Olympic bronze medalist was spectacular in her routine to “Wild is the Wing” and “Feeling Good.” The only error was an edge call on a triple Lutz. She landed a total of six solid triples, including a triple flip-triple toe. All elements except for the Lutz received high grades of execution (GOE) as did her three level-four spins. Sakamoto placed first in the free skate and overall, with over 10 points to spare (222.96).

“At the start of my performance, I accidentally caught an edge,” Sakamoto pointed out. “But I managed to regain my composure and delivered a performance that left me satisfied. Once I landed the first double Axel, everything was okay again and I trusted my training.”

The 23-year-old admitted to being anxious in her short program and felt that this “manifested” in the free skate.

“Although I experienced a range of emotions before my free program, I’m happy that I maintained my composure and completed my skate,” said Sakamoto. “Despite the excitement that arose from the audience’s enthusiasm after the triple combo, I made sure I didn’t get carried away and skated with composure. I skated well from the beginning of the season, and I feel like I gained confidence going for next season.”

Isabeau Levito

Levito delivered a stunning routine to Nella Fantasia, landing a triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel and triple flip. The only error was an edge call on the front end of the combination jump. The 2022 World Junior champion also earned a level four on all three spins, which received high GOEs, and placed second with a new personal best of 73.73.

“I am so happy today with my skate!” said Levito. “What made the difference I think is that I found joy in my training again. I can’t wait to bring myself to the best version of myself at these competitions. The new short program rather fits my style a bit better, but I can’t wait to show other sides of me in the future.”

The element the 2023 National champion was most proud of in her short was her double Axel (+0.94 GOE).

The five-time Grand Prix medalist checked off each element in her free skate to music from The White Crow. However, the performance was not without error. She received an edge call on the front end of a triple Lutz-triple toe, slightly underrotating the second jump. She also later received another edge call on a triple Lutz in combination with a Euler-triple Salchow. With four clean triple jumps, along with a level-four spin and footwork, she scored a new season’s best of 138.43 for second place. With a total score of 212.16, she easily maintained second overall.

“At the end of program, I threw my arms out and hopped on the ice,” said the 17-year-old. “I was in a state of shock that I did that!”

“I had two goals coming into this world championships,” she continued. “Getting on the podium and securing the third spot for the American women next year. I did both. It was extremely satisfying! I worked so hard for this moment; it took everything out of me, and I did it! This season was very difficult for me, and I was often confused with how I skated. I am so proud of my team and all the hard work I put in. It paid off and I won a medal at the world championships!”

Chaeyeon Kim

Kim placed sixth in the short with 66.91 points. The 2024 Four Continents silver medalist gave a confident routine to “Pantomeme” and “Lillies of the Valley,” smiling throughout. The double Axel was clean, but she underrotated that back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe and received an edge call on a triple flip. However, all spins and footwork were graded a level four.

“Before I came here, I was still a bit nervous and also the practice this morning didn’t go well,” said Kim. “I have a little bit of regret because of that, but except for the underrotation, I did pretty well. I was super happy to see Korea 1,2,3 after my skate. I am not alone here. I am with my ‘older sisters’ Haein and Young and I am very delighted they did well.”

The 2023 Skate Canada silver medalist delivered four clean triples in her captivating free skate to Le Bal des folles. She put her foot down on the back end of a triple flip-double toe-double loop. This triple flip, along with a solo triple flip, received an edge call and a triple Salchow was landed on the quarter. However, the triple Lutz-triple toe earned +1.43 GOE, and all spins and footwork were graded a level four. She earned a season’s best of 136.68 for third place in the free skate and scored 203.59 points overall.

“I was nervous again today, but not as badly as yesterday,” admitted the 17-year-old. “This season was difficult and good at the same time. Difficult because of some injuries; I recently had a back injury. But it was also a good season because of some good results.”

Loena Hendrickx

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx gave an explosive short program, attacking each element, to “I’m nin’alu” and “Living for Love.” All of her elements were rewarded with positive grades of execution (GOE), particularly the triple flip-triple to and triple Lutz. The 2023 World bronze medalist also received a level four on all three spins and footwork to score a new personal best of 76.97 for first place.

“I had self-confidence,” said Hendrickx. “I wanted to enjoy myself and also plan to fully enjoy my free skate. The adrenalin really helped me through today.”

The 24-year-old said she wasn’t able to train at “full strength” the last few weeks as she had some doubts of her condition.

“The hard training I did before probably paid off,” said Hendrickx. “But if you have fun of what you do, this is the key to success. This small gold medal means a lot; I want to skate the long program with the same about of fun and we will see what the outcome will be.”

The 2024 European champion struggled in her free skate to “Break My Soul,” placing eighth (123.27). She underrotated several jumps, fell on a triple flip and lacked a clean triple-triple. In all, she only managed two clean triple jumps, but earned a level four with high GOEs for her final layback spin. Her total score was 200.25 and she slipped to fourth overall.

“Of course I wanted more. It was a bit difficult today,” said Hendrickx. “But I am standing here and did what I could today. Afterall, we are all human.”

Hendrickx admitted to being “stressed” and that “it wouldn’t be possible to stay in first.”

“I knew it would be difficult because my preparation wasn’t ideal,” she explained. “Maybe that’s what caused the stress. I am happy to stand here at all. I am very proud of the short program. It’s unfortunate about today. I admire Kaori for her consistency. This is something I really aim for.”

Hendrickx also thanked her brother, Jorik.

“At the moment he is more my coach than my brother, he is amazing,” she said. “He organizes everything and helps me so much. He also gave me a lot of chances when I was small. He opened the path for me.”

Kimmy Repond

Switzerland’s Kimmy Repond took a fall on a triple Lutz in the short program, placing 12th (62.64). However, she rebounded with a rousing free skate that featured seven triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe. Two spins and the footwork were graded a level four, and the 2023 European bronze medalist was awarded a new personal best of 133.38 for fourth place. With a total score of 196.02, she soared to fifth place overall.

“I am so, so happy!” said the 17-year-old. “Finally, I could show what I am capable of. Except for the mistake yesterday, I had a good competition I am really happy with. I could train very well recently, and it showed today. It means even more to me after the difficult season with the injury.”

Repond plans to take a vacation in Pairs before working with David Wilson on her new programs.

“I loved my two old programs, but I did them enough now and I want to try something new,” she said. “I already know my new free skate music, but not the short yet.”

Haein Lee

Haein Lee of South Korea drew the audience in with her mystical short to “Sirens” and “The Drink from God.” The 2023 Four Continents champion was solid, landing a triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel and triple flip. All spins and footwork were rewarded with a level four, and she placed a very close third with a new season’s best of 73.55.

“After the Four Continents, I was really tired,” the 18-year-old confessed. “I wondered if I was maybe not good enough for skating. But I knew I had still Worlds to go, and I wanted to skate for myself. I did that and this is why I think it went so good today. I am super happy!”

Lee said she “loves all her team Korea friends.” She names Young You, Junhwan Cha and Sihyeong Lee as her best friends on the team.

“Young went really through a tough time this year,” Lee acknowledged. “I am especially happy to be here with her. I didn’t follow any of the competition, but before the six minutes warm-up, I looked up and saw she was in first place. I was like: “Yes! That’s my girl!”

Unfortunately, the 2023 World silver medalist struggled with nearly all her triple jumps, mostly underrotations, in her free skate. She placed 12th in the free skate and slipped to sixth overall (121.93 / 195.48).

“I was the last to skate, so I was really nervous,” admitted Lee. “I feel disappointed in myself. But I have next season, so I will keep training.”

“This season it was really hard to believe in myself,” she explained. “I was making some mistakes and I wanted to correct that, but I think that it didn’t work, so I feel bad about that. I think I probably need to work on my mental strength to get better. I want to practice hard for next season and I want to go to the Final. I would also like to compete at the Four Continents Championships and the World Championships.”

Mone Chiba

Japan’s Mone Chiba moved up from 13th to seventh place overall (195.46). Her free skate to music from Legend of 1900 was featured five clean triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe. She also landed a triple Lutz-double Axel sequence and picked up a level four on all three spins. The 18-year-old finished fifth in the free skate with 132.82 points.

“Unlike the Four Continents championships, I was so nervous that it was difficult to stay focused until the end,” explained Chiba. “I missed my loop, but I would like to use that as an experience. I was so nervous that I couldn’t maintain my expressiveness. I was disappointed that I made these mistakes, so I want to do my best every day from now on. No matter which jump I missed today, I was determined to finish it.”

“From now on, I would like to continue to improve my musical expressiveness,” the 2024 Four Continents champion summed up. “I was able to participate in a big competition in my first year as a senior, so I want to aim for more consistent performances in my second senior year.”

Rounding out the top 10

Japan’s Hana Yoshida finished eighth overall (194.93) followed by Livia Kaiser of Switzerland (187.24).

“I am very happy I could finish my season with another good competition and show once more what I am capable of,” said Kaiser. “I take from this season that it’s a lot of fun to skate in front of such big audiences and I am very motivated for next season!”

USA’s Amber Glenn landed a triple Axel in the free skate but struggled through the second half of her routine to finish 10th overall (186.53).

“That was just terrible,” Glenn said of her free skate. “You know, I did not feel the greatest out there and I really did try to pull myself back in and fight. I really just want to go back and next year, really plan out a better layout that resonates. I seemed to just lose focus every time on that middle part, no matter what I’ve tried. Different strategies, you know, focus points, but I always seem to just kind of lose it in the middle. So, I’ll just try and go back home and reset for next year.”

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