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Kaori Sakamoto wins gold in Espoo

Kaori Sakamoto wins gold in Espoo

ESPOO, Finland (AP) — World champion Kaori Sakamoto secured her place at figure skating’s Grand Prix Finals with her second series win of the season on Saturday at Grand Prix Espoo.

Sakamoto landed seven triple jumps in the free skate as she extended her lead from Friday’s short program to finish with a total of 205.21 points, exactly 15 points ahead of fellow Japanese skater Rion Sumiyoshi, who fell on a triple loop.

Amber Glenn of the United States soared from 11th overnight to finish in the bronze medal position with the second-highest-scoring free skate of the day for a total of 185.39.

“I’m still in shock that I’m up here right now,” Glenn said. “I’m excited to see where the rest of the season goes.”

World champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates won the ice dance competition for their second Grand Prix win this season, securing a spot at the finals in Beijing next month.

Skating to music by Pink Floyd, Chock and Bates extended their lead from Friday’s rhythm dance to score a total of 209.46 points. They are unbeaten so far in 2023. Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen of Canada were second on 206.32 and Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis took third for Finland with 195.80.

There was another one-two finish for Japan in the men’s event as Kao Miura edged past his teammate Shun Sato to win his first figure skating Grand Prix title and book a place in the finals.

Miura and Sato each landed three quadruple jumps in the free skate, with Sato scoring slightly higher. Miura’s three-point advantage from Friday’s short program helped him hold on to win with a total of 274.56 points to Sato’s 273.34.

It’s the first career Grand Prix series win for Miura, who won the world junior title and Four Continents Championship gold last season.

Kévin Aymoz of France recovered from a poor short program to take the bronze, rising from fifth to third to finish with a total of 250.03. Jimmy Ma of the United States had been in third place after the short program but a fall and other errors in his free skate dropped the 28-year-old from New York to 11th overall.

Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nikita Volodin of Germany won gold in the pairs event in their first Grand Prix competition together with a total of 192.72. Hase previously skated with Nolan Seegert to fifth place at the 2022 world championships before pairing with Volodin, who previously represented Russia.

Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii were second for Italy on 188.60, and Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko took bronze for Hungary on 186.19. Short-program leaders Peng Cheng and Wang Lei of China dropped to fourth and missed the podium by .03 of a point.

Grand Prix Espoo is the fifth of the six events that determine qualification for the Grand Prix Finals in Beijing.

Winner Kaori Sakamoto of Japan performs during the women’s free program of the ISU figure skating Grand Prix Espoo 2023 competition in Espoo, Finland on Saturday. PHOTO: AP