by Liz Leamy
Sakamoto Triumphs in Free Skate to Claim Gold in Women’s Competition
Kaori Sakamoto, the 2022 Japanese Olympic bronze medalist and 2022 Japanese World champion, hit the proverbial ball out of the park in characteristic fashion, taking first in the women’s free skate, earning a 145.89 and 217.61 final score.
Skating to Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart,’ Sakamoto, who has been a marquis contender at the ISU Skate America Championships since 2017, was on fire, reeling off a triple Lutz, triple flip-triple, triple loop, triple Salchow, triple flip-double toe, double Axel-triple toe-double Axel sequence and double Axel with great height, attack and command while all of her takeoffs and landings were done with remarkable speed.
All about edginess and power, Sakamoto, with her flowing short hair and red sleeveless dress, earned a huge standing ovation from the Norwood crowd at the conclusion of her program in which she expressed the universal narrative of just being human in an emotional and effective way.
Moreover, Sakamoto, the final skater of this event, seemed to have such a profound effect upon the spectators that they were ready to stand up and applaud her during the step sequence near the end of her program, something that was both exciting and heartwarming to see.
For Sakamoto, it was all about showing the love and joy of skating through her programs and also about doing her best.
“This is actually my fifth time to come to Skate America and the first time to win a gold medal,” said Sakamoto, who is from Kobe, Japan. “So I’m truly delighted about that. After the short program I was very determined to make sure I could do my triple-triple combination and I focused on that.”
Isabeau Levito, the 2022 U.S. bronze medalist and 2022 World junior champion, claimed the silver medal with a lovely and exciting free skate to Eugen Doga’s ‘My Sweet and Tender Beast’ for which she racked up a 135.36 and 206.66 total.
Levito, wearing a sparkling blue dress, executed such notable elements as a triple flip-double toe-double loop, triple Lutz-triple toe (that had a slight step out on the landing), triple flip, triple Lutz, triple Salchow and double Axel, all of which were defined by flow, length, height and rotational quickness.
In addition, Levito’s spins were also uber-fast and stunning, while her footwork and connecting steps were complex and fluid and featured a variety of different turns, steps and other things that expressed the depth of both her program and skating.
Although she refrained from doing a triple loop following her opening triple Lutz in a planned combination, Levito’s performance was superior, something that was reflected in the response of the crowd at its conclusion.
For Levito, it was a thrilling and great experience to have competed at this event, especially with it being her first ISU Championship Grand Prix competition.
“This is my first Grand Prix and it’s cool that it was here with a home crowd in America,” said Levito, who hails from Mount Holly, New Jersey. “I feel like I did pretty good in my short program and my long program was definitely not as good as my short program in my opinion. I definitely made mistakes here, but I’m still pretty happy with the experience.”
Amber Glenn, the 2021 U.S. silver medalist who home is in Plano, Texas, garnered bronze with a 197.61 total score.
Third in the short, Glenn easily maintained her podium-worthy position with an electric free skate to Ursine Vulpine’s ‘Without You’ for which she was awarded a 129.19.
In her program, Glenn knocked out a huge triple Lutz, triple flip-triple toe, triple flip, triple loop-double toe-double toe, triple loop and triple Salchow with terrific snap, height and spring, efforts that went over in a major way with the audience as well as the nine-member ISU judging panel.
At the same time, she also went for a triple Axel that was high and fully rotated, but of which she fell out of on the landing.
Still, her performance was clearly of a top-rate standard.
According to Glenn, competing at this event represented both a great and important experience.
“I felt like I really held back and played it safe, but I’m happy with the end result and I’m proud to have my first Grand Prix medal,” said Glenn.