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Kaori Sakamoto three-peats at figure skating worlds; Isabeau Levito wins first medal

Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto rallied from fourth place after the short program to become the first woman to three-peat at figure skating worlds since American Peggy Fleming in 1968.

Isabeau Levito followed with her first world championships medal — silver — at 17 years old, 10.8 points behind and one year after taking fourth.

That’s the best finish by an American woman since Ashley Wagner was runner-up in 2016. The last U.S. woman to win a world title was Kimmie Meissner in 2006.

South Korean Kim Chae-Yeon, also 17, claimed bronze to round out the podium in Montreal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Short program leader Loena Hendrickx of Belgium skated after Sakamoto and Levito, fell on a triple flip and did not have a triple-triple jump combination. Hendrickx dropped to fourth after taking silver then bronze at the last two worlds.

Hendrickx led by 3.25 over Levito after Wednesday’s short program. Sakamoto, undefeated this season, was 3.69 behind Hendrickx after a minor jumping error and a slip late in her short.

Sakamoto, 23, won in 2022 under the pressure as clear favorite without any Russians in the field. She won in 2023 under the pressure of skating at home in Japan.

Then on Friday night, she prevailed in come-from-behind fashion over a world-class field for the first time, having to do it before the rest of the top women skated.

“I was very glad that I was able to experience that difficulty,” she said through a translator, “and I really now am aware of how difficult it is to win perpetually.”

Sakamoto had one minor error over seven jumping passes -- a wrong edge call on a triple Lutz -- and landed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination in the second half of her four-minute skate for bonus points.

She had the best free skate by a whopping 11.24 points over Levito.

Next year, Sakamoto can become the first woman to win four world titles in a row since American Carol Heiss captured five straight from 1956-60.

Levito had her own rally. Last time out at January’s U.S. Championships, she fell three times in the free skate in defense of her national title, admitting to nerves.

This week, she recorded her highest short program and free skate scores of the season.

“I had a very rough season, and I was so disappointed in myself,” Levito said. “For a lot of the season I was so confused with how I was skating, but I’m really proud of myself and my team of coaches, with all the consistent training and hard training we’ve been doing, and to deserve a medal like this at the world championships is everything to me right now.”

Levito was third at the January 2022 U.S. Championships in her senior nationals debut, but was too young to be eligible for that three-woman Olympic team.

Since, she won a junior world title (April 2022), a senior national title (January 2023), plus silver medals in the two most prestigious annual international events -- the Grand Prix Final in December 2022 and now senior worlds.

“It’s just all building blocks,” said Levito, whose mom is a native of the 2026 Winter Olympic host city of Milan. “I’m picking up more achievements on my way to the Olympics, learning more experiences and becoming wiser so that I can be the best that I can be by the time of the Olympics.”

U.S. champion Amber Glenn, who finished 10th this week, became the second American woman to land a triple Axel at a worlds after Tonya Harding in 1991.

Levito and Glenn entered worlds ranked third and 14th in the field by best total score this season, respectively.

Their results needed to add up to no more than 13 to earn the U.S. the maximum three spots at the 2025 Worlds in Boston. They accomplished that with a combined 12 (second and 10th).

Worlds finish Saturday with the free dance (1:30 p.m. ET, Peacock) and men’s free skate (6 p.m. ET, Peacock).