Japan’s Sakamoto Tops Short Program at Skate Canada

World champion Kaori Sakamoto performs her short program at Skate Canada in Vancouver on Friday.

MONTREAL, Canada (AFP-Jiji) — Two-time reigning world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan won Friday’s women’s short program at Skate Canada in Vancouver, the second event of the ISU Grand Prix season.

The 23-year-old from Kobe scored 75.13 points to seize command. South Korea’s 16-year-old Kim Chae-yeon was second on 70.31 with Japan’s 19-year-old Rino Matsuike third on 66.29.

The results of Saturday’s women’s free skate will decide the winner.

Defending champion Rinka Watanabe of Japan was seventh with 57.52 points.

Sakamoto figures to compete again in Canada next March in Montreal at the 2024 World Championships, where she could become the first woman to win three consecutive world titles since American Peggy Fleming did it from 1966 to 1968.

Sakamoto won bronze medals in both the women’s and team events at last year’s Beijing Winter Olympics, and helped Japan claim the Japan Open team title earlier this month.