​​​​​​​Kaori Sakamoto wins NHK Trophy women’s title with near-perfect skate

Kaori Sakamoto produced a near-flawless free skate on Saturday in Osaka, Japan, to win the women’s NHK Trophy, the final event of the figure skating Grand Prix series.

Skating to music from the movie “The Matrix,” Sakamoto, who was first after the short program, landed a double axel and followed with a triple flip, triple toe loop combination en route to a score of 153.91 for a total of 229.51.

“I was nervous but was able to execute the free skate as I did in practice,” Sakamoto said. “I hope this result will give me confidence for the Japan nationals.”

Sakamoto also landed a triple lutz, a triple salchow and a triple loop as well as two more combination jumps.

WATCH | Sakamoto held the lead after this short program:

Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto skated to a score of 75.60 at the Grand Prix of Japan in Osaka to take the early lead after the women’s short program 6:51

Wakaba Higuchi, the 2018 world silver medallist who was second after Friday’s short program, landed a triple axel at the start of her free skate and was second overall with 200.98 points despite finishing fourth in the free program. Rino Matsuike was third with 198.97 points.

The NHK Trophy normally draws competitors from around the world but was limited to mostly Japanese skaters because of travel restrictions put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite concerns about the coronavirus, there was a near-capacity crowd on hand for Saturday’s program. Japan has managed to keep the virus under control so far but is experiencing a recent surge in cases.

The Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final that was to be held as an Olympic test event on Dec. 10-13 in Beijing has been postponed. The Grand Prix events in Canada and France were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Live streaming coverage of the NHK Trophy continues on CBCSports.ca on Saturday at 12:15 a.m. ET with thegala exhibition.

Read more at CBC.ca