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  • Writer's pictureRiley Grube

Kaori Sakamoto Wins Historic Third Consecutive World Title

Kaori Sakamoto made history at the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships by winning her third consecutive title. This feat was last accomplished in women’s singles skating by Peggy Flemming in 1968. She is also the only Japanese skater in any discipline to win three consecutive world titles. 

In the short program, Sakamoto made a mistake on her triple Lutz, finishing only in fourth place. She then delivered a nearly flawless free skate to jump into first place ahead of the United States Isabeau Levito by over 10 points. Levito won her first World medal, a silver, and South Korea’s Kim Chae-Yeon won the bronze medal. Levito and Kim are only 17 years old while Sakamoto is 23, which is notable in a sport where teenagers win often.

Sakamoto began skating when she was four years old and had some success in her early career. She was national champion at the novice level in 2012, and four years later, she won the national title at the junior level. She moved up to the senior level just in time for the 2018 Olympic Games, where she finished sixth. She was fifth and sixth at the World Championships in 2019 and 2021, respectively.

Sakamoto did not enter the 2022 Olympics as a medal-favorite, but she scored personal bests in the short program and free skate to win the bronze medal. Her free skate was dedicated to women’s empowerment. She also helped Team Japan win a bronze medal, which was upgraded to silver following the disqualification of Russia’s Kamila Valieva.

Sakamoto entered the 2022 World Championships as the heavy favorite to win, a position she had never found herself in, because of the ban of Russian skaters. She once again scored personal bests in both programs and easily won her first World title.

Sakamoto continued her winning streak into the next season. Her short program was a medley of Janet Jackson songs, and Jackson praised the program on Instagram. At the World Championships free skate, she “popped” a triple flip jump, meaning she only performed a single rotation. However, she still added the planned triple toe loop to the jump instead of missing the combination entirely. This save allowed her to win her second World title.

Sakamoto competed in eight events during the 2023-24 season and won gold at all of them. Her short program to the song “Baby, God Bless You,” was a dedication to her niece and nephew. This season also marked the first time Sakamoto won the Grand Prix Final, so she now has a “Career Grand Slam,” meaning she has won gold at all major international events aside from the Olympics.

If Sakamoto won the 2025 World Championships, she would become the first women’s singles skater to win four consecutive titles since Carol Heiss won five consecutive titles in the 1950s. Her continued success has created a lot of pressure on her to perform, and she admits she gets nervous in competitions. However, she intentionally strives to create balance in her life and tries to embrace the nerves and pressure instead of fighting them.

In women’s singles figure skating, skaters tend to peak when they are teenagers and retire early. However, Sakamoto’s recent success bucks this trend. She has only gotten stronger, more consistent, and confident in her 20s, which has led to better results. Sakamoto is an example of perseverance, and, hopefully, this is still just the beginning of a historic career.


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