Murakami wins world junior title


For the second time in three days Japan has a new world junior champion.

Kanako Murakami moved from second place after the short program to win the ladies singles crown with a strong free skate on Saturday in The Hague. Trailing Russia’s Anna Ovcharova by less than a point before taking the ice, the 15-year-old Murakami hit five triple jumps in her performance to “Swan Lake” and posted a score of 165.47 to take the gold medal by nearly nine points.

Known for her beautiful smile and charming personality, Murakami received high scores for spins and footwork in the free skate.

Murakami’s victory followed that of compatriot Yuzuru Hanyu, who captured the men’s title on Thursday, and demonstrates the continued strength of Japanese figure skating.

Murakami is the sixth Japanese female to claim the world junior championship. She joins Yuka Sato, Kumiko Koiwai, Yukina Ota, Miki Ando and Vancouver Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada in earning the honor.

The Nagoya native, who also came from behind to win the Junior Grand Prix Final in Tokyo in December, could not conceal her joy at her triumph.

“I did very well today,” Murakami said. “There was only one disappointment, I missed the triple salchow. I just did a double. It is such a strange feeling that I’m here,” Kanako said, smiling. “I haven’t yet decided whether I will compete in juniors or seniors, but I hope to show better performances next season.”

American Agnes Zawadzki claimed the silver medal, while Russia’s Polina Agafonova took the bronze.

Just like Hanyu, Murakami’s win capped off an incredible season for her. She won both Junior GPs (in Croatia and Poland) she entered as well as the Japan junior title in Yokohama.

The lone competition that Murakami did not triumph in was the Japan senior nationals, where she was an impressive fifth, competing against Japan’s loaded lineup of senior stars.