Kaori Sakamoto wins national title and wins Beijing Games ticket

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Kaori Sakamoto delivered an imposing free skate on Saturday to win her second national championship and a berth at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Leading second place Wakaba Higuchi by 4.57 points after Thursday’s short program, Sakamoto, 21, totaled a season-high 234.06 at Saitama Super Arena as she reclaimed the women’s title she had. first won in 2018.

Sakamoto performed seven triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, scoring 154.83 for his free routine and finishing the competition 12.28 ahead of Higuchi.

Mana Kawabe completed the podium 12.13 points behind, with Mai Mihara fourth at 206.86. Four-time national champion Satoko Miyahara, who finished fourth at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, was fifth with 206.51 points.

Sakamoto, finalist last year for back-to-back national champion Rika Kihira, raised both hands in joy as she stepped out of the ice.

“I couldn’t be happier, I’m absolutely thrilled,” said the 21-year-old Kobe native, who was still in high school when she finished sixth on her Olympic debut in Pyeongchang. “A weight has been taken from me.”

The four-day national championships, which conclude on Sunday, are the final qualifying event for the February Games in Beijing. The Japan Skating Federation will officially announce the Olympic team, with three competitors each in the men’s and women’s singles, once the championships are over.

Kihira, 19, previously considered the best medal chance among Japanese women, withdrew ahead of the national championships with a stress fracture in her right ankle and will not compete in the Olympics.

In ice dancing, Misato Komatsubara and Takeru Komatsubara, also known as Tim Koleto, clinched their fourth consecutive national title after narrowly beating Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi.

The husband and wife pair came in with a big enough lead over Thursday’s rhythmic dance to win by 1.86 points despite second behind Muramoto and Takahashi in the free dance.

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