Sakamoto satisfies with 1st performance at Beijing Olympics

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kaori Sakamoto celebrates after her free skate in the team event at the Beijing Olympics on Monday.

As the final competitor for Japan, Kaori Sakamoto ended the team figure skating event on a high note for her country at the Beijing Olympics on Monday.

Sakamoto, 21, competed in the women’s free skate on the final day of the team event. Japan was already guaranteed to get the bronze medal before she performed, but her spirits remained high.

“Everyone skated error-free,” Sakamoto said. “I thought I also had to finish my program with no mistakes, so I focused on myself.”

She smiled and raised her fists after giving a dynamic performance. Sakamoto was overtaken by the following competitor, 15-year-old Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee, but still finished in second place.

Sakamoto also competed in the women’s free skate in the team event at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, where she made her Olympic debut.

“My legs were shaking so much,” she recalled. She had planned a triple flip-triple toe loop combination at the beginning of her program, but that became a single jump. She ultimately finished in fifth, as did the Japan team overall.

Unlike the Pyeongchang Games, where she just made it onto the Japan team after placing second at the All-Japan championships, Sakamoto won the latest championships comfortably and is one of her nation’s top skaters at the Beijing Games.

“Everyone [on the team] was watching over me, and that gave me emotional support,” she said. “I was nervous, but I was able to enjoy performing.”