YANGYANG, SOUTH KOREA – Kaori Sakamoto arrived in South Korea on Sunday, quietly confident she can ride her wave of momentum in the women’s figure skating competition at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The Japan Skating Federation made what it described as a “difficult decision” in December and picked Sakamoto ahead of fellow high schooler Wakaba Higuchi for the Olympic team, even though Higuchi had posted better results internationally.
Because Higuchi ranked higher in various standings, Sakamoto was considered an underdog for a place on the team before the four-day national championships, where she eventually finished second.
The 17-year-old from Kobe, in her first season on the senior circuit, has gone some way to vindicating that decision as her star continues to rise.
Sakamoto led Japan to a 1-2-3 sweep at January’s Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taipei, landing seven triple jumps in the free skate to seal a come-from-behind victory.
Now she looks to continue from where she left off.
“I have been gathering momentum and the momentum is growing and I feel I have got even more confidence now than I had at the national championships,” Sakamoto told reporters at Yangyang International Airport.
“I’m looking to keep the roll going and put all the work I have built up out there on the ice. I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can go.
“This is the first time I will be skating (at this ice arena in Gangneung) so I want to get myself accustomed to it and get properly tuned up in time for the competition.”
Sakamoto said she was also relishing the opportunity to rub shoulders with the cream of the winter sporting world at the athletes’ village.
“I’m looking forward to having pictures taken with famous athletes from other sports,” she smiled.