Kaori Sakamoto took the lead with an impressive short program at the Yokohama Junior Grand Prix on Friday.
The 16-year-old from Kobe skated to the theme from “The Artist” and started with a nice triple loop, before hitting a triple flip/triple toe loop combination jump and a double axel.
Sakamoto set a personal best with a score of 65.66 points and will be seeking her first JGP title in Sunday’s free skate. She displayed excellent presentation skills with flowing arm movements throughout her program and also showed good line and edge at the Shin-Yokohama Skate Center.
Mako Yamashita is in second place with 64.86, while Russia’s Alisa Fedichkina stands third at 61.13.
World junior champion Marin Honda suffered a disappointing outing in front of the capacity crowd that had turned out to see her and is fifth on 55.47.
Sweeps are rare on the JGP circuit outside of pairs, if only because only the home country is allowed to have three entries in the other disciplines. Here in Japan, however, all three ladies were capable, and they were led by the reigning Junior World Champion. Marin Honda, however, got off to a bad start, losing her combination in the short to a stumble, and letting it get to a couple of her other elements, although they were technically clean.
It left her down in fifth after the short, ten points back of leader Kaori Sakamoto. The other two Japanese girls went 1-2 in the segment, within a point of each other. Sakamoto and international debutante Mako Yamashita both skated flawless shorts with difficult triple-triple combinations, spurred on by the roars of the crowd.
Honda did far better in the free skate, showing the ethereal skating and jumping, along with a triple flip-triple toe, that won her that world title. When she singled a double axel close to the end, there was initially disappointment simply because she’d been so close to perfect. It may have also ultimately cost her the gold.
Sakamoto too skated a program mostly smooth throughout, struggling only on an underrotated loop. She didn’t have Honda’s dazzling artistry, but she did equal her in the beauty of her triple flip-triple toe, and even a few of her other jumps. When the numbers crunched together, Sakamoto’s lead held for gold. Yamashita saw the second jump in her triple lutz-triple toe downgraded to a double and was slightly weaker at the start of her free in general, but she quickly pulled it together to hold on to bronze.
Russian figure skater Sophia Samodurova and Alice Fedichkina took fourth and sixth place in the third stage of the junior Grand Prix in Japan. All pedestal occupied the hostess of the competition: Kaori Sakamoto, Marin Honda and Mako Yamashita.
Samoudrova was third in the long program, Yamashita ahead by 2.5 points, but it was not enough for a medal. Fedichkina successfully performed in the short program, showing the third result, but in any given way to a Japanese woman and her friend on the team more than 10 points, becoming only the sixth sum of the two programs.
The third step of the Grand Prix. Juniors. Yokohama (Japan). Girls.
She was fourth in the segment, however, behind Sofia Samodurova. She and her fellow Russian Alisa Fedichkina were the main threats to the sweep, but they both came up short. They were in fourth and third respectively after shorts that were clean but not crisp. They both landed triple lutz-triple toe combinations, but Samodurova’s lutz takeoff was severely on the wrong edge of her skate blade, for which she suffered. In her international debut, Samodurova showed herself to very much be developing. She avoided the edge penalty on her triple lutz-triple toe in the free, a close to clean effort and also improved in her connection to the music, which was present but limited in both programs.
In her second season on the circuit, former JGP Finalist Fedichkina has a more mature style than she did, though she relied heavily on sometimes silly miming in her free skate. In the free she also singled a lutz, and did only a triple flip-double toe. She did pull off her difficult triple lutz-loop-triple salchow combination, albeit a little shakily. She slipped to sixth, a fraction of a point behind the cleaner-skating Korean Ye Lim Kim. Kim lost her combination to a fall in the short, but in the free landed the hardest combination of the competition, a triple lutz-triple toe-double loop, though with a more minor edge issue. (She also attempted a triple flip-triple toe, but underrotated it).