TAIPEI - Kanako Murakami completed a winning double for Japan at the Four Continents Championships on Saturday.
Murakami scored 132.18 in the free skate for a total of 196.91 points, over 10 points clear of 15-year-old Satoko Miyahara. The bronze went to Zijun Li of China.
“I did everything I was capable of doing. I’m delighted,” said Murakami, whose victory came a day after Takahito Mura and Takahiko Kozuka led Japan to a 1-2 finish in the men’s event.
“Until now I could not generate points at international events even if I didn’t make any mistakes.”
Murakami was the only skater competing at this event that had been selected to represent Japan at the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
Skating to “Papa Can You Hear Me,” Murakami landed a triple toe-triple toe combination, triple Lutz and four more triples. The three spins and the footwork merited a level four and the 19-year-old set a new personal best score with 132.18 points for herself. It was Murakami’s first senior-level ISU Championship title.
“This is an important competition and winning here means the next step for me,” Murakami commented. “I was able to do the best performance that I can do at the moment.”
She added: “At all other championships I have been to my score wasn’t as high as I expected, even if I didn’t make mistakes. I know I still have some problems I need to fix, but I was very glad I came here to Four Continents.”
Miyahara delivered a strong performance to the flamenco piece “Poeta,” nailing seven triples including a triple Lutz-triple toe and a double Axel-triple toe combination. The 15-year-old earned a level four for two spins and posted a personal best score of 126.26 points.
With a total of 186.53 points, Miyahara jumped on to the podium in her debut at the ISU Four Continents Championships.
“This event I was the most nerve-wracking for me,” she said.
“I know this will be a great start for the next season. Today’s performance made me gain confidence. I didn’t care about my placement. Being second doesn’t really matter to me, the most important thing was to do the best I could.”
Li’s program to “Coppelia” featured five solid triples as well as level-three spins and footwork. Although she improved her seasons best significantly with 118.72 points, it was not enough to hold on to second place with 181.56 points overall.
“I missed the first triple-triple combination, and the landing of the double axel was shaky. I have to say I was still not in my best condition. I would like to make sure to bring out the best side of me at the Olympics,” the 17-year-old noted.
Haruka Imai slipped from third to fourth at 175.40 points. Courtney Hicks of the United States moved up from seventh to fifth (169.99 points) and South Korea’s Kim Hae-jin finished sixth (166.84 points).
On Friday, Mura’s near-flawless performance included a triple axel plus double toe loop jump sequence, and quadruple toe loop jump. They earned him 158.35 points for the segment and 242.56 overall, more than six points better than second-place Kozuka.
Fourth after the short program, Kozuka’s free skate lead allowed him to total 236.38 and edge the silver medal from Nan Song of China, who was third in the free and tallied 236.09.
Richard Dornbush of the United States was second from the short program but an error-marred free skate, including a fall on the quadruple salchow, dropped him to seventh for the segment and out of medal contention.
Mura admitted to being worried and tense during the free skate warmup, but relaxed as soon as his program began.
“I was able to accomplish what I wasn’t able to accomplish at the nationals and that’s what I want to do in the future for my career,” Mura said.
In pairs, Chinese couple Wenjing Sui and Cong Han retained their lead in the free skate with an impressive performance that included a perfectly executed triple-double-double toe loop jump combination and triple salchow.
“I am very happy to have landed the triple salchow because in practice my success rate was not so high,” Sui said.
They were champions with a total of 212.4, comfortably shading the 181.45 for Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea of the United States, who rose from third to second after their free skate.
Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, also of the U.S., were fourth in the free skate but claimed the bronze with an overall 170.35.