Kaori Sakamoto takes lead at figure skating’s Skate Canada
Two-time world champion Kaori Sakamoto leads after the short program of Skate Canada, her Grand Prix season-opening event.
Sakamoto tallied 75.13 points in Vancouver with three clean jumping passes, though she received an unclear edge call on a triple Lutz. She leads South Korean Kim Chae-Yeon by 4.82 going into Saturday’s free skate, live on Peacock.
Sakamoto, a 23-year-old from Japan, bids this season to become the first women’s singles skater to win three consecutive world titles since American Peggy Fleming from 1966-68. Worlds are in Montreal in March.
Sakamoto will not compete against her primary challengers — world silver and bronze medalists Lee Hae-In of South Korea and Loena Hendrickx of Belgium — before December’s Grand Prix Final.
Hendrickx has the world’s top total score this season — 221.28 — from last week’s win at Skate America. Hendrickx also has the top short program score of 75.92 from Skate America.
Americans Audrey Shin, Lindsay Thorngren and Starr Andrews were fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the short program. Each skater bids this season to make her first world championships team, so their placements this week will be an early indicator of podium prospects for January’s nationals.
Later Friday, Japan’s Sota Yamamoto topped the men’s short program with 89.56 points, outscoring world silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan of South Korea by 3.38. Cha fell on a quadruple toe loop.
Yamamoto, 23, was second at last December’s Grand Prix Final, then placed 15th at March’s worlds.
World bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada posted the world’s top rhythm dance score on the early season, an 87.55 to supplant world champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates’ score from last week’s Skate America. Those two couples will not face off before December’s Grand Prix Final.
As expected, 40-year-old Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps led the pairs’ short program, seven months after placing fourth at worlds. None of the world medalists are in the Skate Canada field.