World Junior bronze medalist Kaori Sakamoto led the Japanese Ladies' charge to the Four Continents podium in Taipei on Friday. Sakamoto skated elegantly to gold, while 2017 Four Continents champion Mai Mihara took the silver medal and 2016 Four Continents champion Satoko Miyahara settled for bronze.
It is the third time the Japanese Ladies have swept the Four Continents podium, having previously achieved the feat in 2003 and 2013.
Sakamoto looked confident and at ease when she went out to skate, and she delivered - reeling off a triple flip-triple toe, double Axel-triple toe-double toe combination plus four more triples and level-four footwork in her playful routine to “Amelie”.
The 17-year-old set a personal best with 142.87 points and totaled 214.21 points to take the title in her debut at the ISU Four Continents Championships.
“I skated here at Junior Worlds last year and I did a clean short and long program, so I have a good memory at the rink. That made me feel confident and I was able to skate comfortably,” Sakamoto said.
Mihara, skating to Ennio Morricone’s “The Mission”, completed her own mission by landing a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, four more clean triples and three level-four spins. However, the second triple Lutz was underrotated. The 2017 Four Continents champion earned a season's best of 140.73 points, giving her 210.57 points overall.
“I am a little bit happy. My performance was not perfectly clean. I got an underrotation on the triple Lutz and I am bit frustrated about that. I felt nervous before my program, but I tried my best,” said Mihara, adding that she wants to "keep coming back to Four Continents and get a medal every year".
Miyahara, who led after the Short Program, produced four clean triple jumps and exquisite spins in her program to “Madame Butterfly”, but she underrotated two triples and fell on a triple Salchow. With a Free Skating score of 135.28 points and a total of 207.02, the 19-year-old slipped to third place.
“I have a lot of regrets about today’s performance. When I came here my jumps were not so perfect and I think that made me uncomfortable and affected my confidence. I want to fix that before the Olympic Games. My body is in perfect condition; the problem is in my mind. I need to be stronger mentally,” the 2015 World silver medalist said.
Dabin Choi (KOR) turned in a strong performance to “Doctor Zhivago”, including seven triple jumps, to climb from fifth to fourth place on 190.23 points. Mariah Bell (USA) came fifth with 185.84 points followed by Hanul Kim (KOR) who scored 173.10 points.
The ISU Four Continents Championships 2018 conclude Saturday with the Men’s Free Skating and the Exhibition Gala. For more information, full entry lists and results please see the ISU website and the official event website. Follow the discussion on social media using the Hashtag #4ContsFigure.