Kaori Sakamoto became the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world championships and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.
Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama, overcoming a late jumping error in Friday’s free skate to win by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea. Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.
Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.
She appeared en route to a runaway victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the victory in doubt. She can be thankful for a 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.
Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.
Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.
FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule
Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest world medalist since 2014. After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three.
“I kind of just considered how you never know how things are going to play out,” Levito said on USA Network of her mindset after the Lutz. “I thought that I’d just give myself as best of a chance that I could considered what already happened.”
Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and world) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and worlds debuts in 2002.
“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said.
American Amber Glenn was 12th in her worlds debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.
The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.
Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.
Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.
“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”
Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.
“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the International Skating Union, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.
Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.
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