Murakami claims gold at Asian Winter Games

Kyodo

Kanako Murakami earned a much-anticipated women’s figure skating gold medal at the Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan on Saturday.

The Grand Prix Final bronze medalist scored a total of 177.04 points, only 1.55 off her personal best. Countrywoman Haruka Imai took the silver with 167.00.

Murakami placed first in both Friday’s short program and Saturday’s free skate.

The 16-year-old nailed a triple-triple combination jump early in the free skate and went on without major mistakes — besides slightly touching the ice with her hand on the landing of a double axel.

“I’m thrilled,” Murakami said. “I’m very happy with my free skate because I almost made no mistakes. I had some mistakes in the short program, but the free was really good. It’s a confidence boost. I was able to bounce back from a slightly shaky short program.”

Murakami became the third Japanese gold medalist in as many Games in women’s figure skating, following Shizuka Arakawa in 2003 and Yukari Nakano in 2007.

Murakami now shifts her focus to next month’s world championships in Tokyo, where she will compete in a star-studded field that includes Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu Na and defending champion Mao Asada.

“I want to turn in a perfect performance in both the short program and the free skate at the worlds,” Murakami said.