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Kaori Sakamoto wins Skate Canada with world’s top score this season

Gilles and Poirier defend Skate Canada title
Ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier follow up their rhythm dance portion of the competition with a flawless performance in the free dance to win gold at Skate Canada for the fourth time.

Two-time world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan won Skate Canada and vaulted to No. 1 in the world this season by best score.

Sakamoto totaled 226.13 points between Friday’s short program and Saturday’s free skate in Vancouver. She had seven triple jumps in an overall clean free skate to distance 16-year-old Kim Chae-Yeon of South Korea by 24.98 points.

Sakamoto displaced world bronze medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium as the world’s top woman on the early season by best total score. Hendrickx won last week’s Skate America with 221.28. Sakamoto’s score was also better than any from last season.

“I feel very much relieved and serene about the performance,” she said, according to the International Skating Union. “This is my seventh season, but so far I have won only four Grand Prix events, so I still have a long way to go. ... I went to look at the score and figured that I left some points on the table in my spins and in the GOE (grade of execution). I feel I have a lot to improve.”

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Sakamoto bids to return to Canada for March’s world championships in Montreal. She can become the first woman to three-peat since American Peggy Fleming from 1966-68.

Lindsay Thorngren was the top American in fifth, ahead of Audrey Shin (seventh) and Starr Andrews (eighth).

Thorngren’s total -- 189.52 -- ranks her third among American women on the early season behind Isabeau Levito (208.15, Skate America) and Amber Glenn (189.63, Skate America).

Two U.S. women will make up the team for March’s worlds, named after January’s nationals.

Later Saturday, Japan’s Sota Yamamoto held on to win the men’s event by 53 hundredths of a point over countryman Kao Miura. Yamamoto, 23, earned his first Grand Prix win in his eighth start.

Cha Jun-Hwan of South Korea, the world silver medalist, dropped from second after Friday’s short to place ninth overall.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier won their fourth consecutive Skate Canada title, posting the world’s top ice dance score this season.

Their 219.01 points were 6.05 more than world champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates tallied to win Skate America last week. Those two couples will not face off before December’s Grand Prix Final.

Canadians Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps won the pairs by 26.86 points, also posting the world’s best score this season.

The 40-year-old Stellato-Dudek won the 2000 World Junior Championships silver medal in singles while skating for the U.S. She went 15 years between competitions before returning as a pairs’ skater in 2016. Last season, she became the oldest skater to win a Grand Prix event, and the pair later finished fourth at worlds.

The figure skating season continues with Grand Prix France next Friday and Saturday, live on Peacock.