Kaori Sakamoto delivered a commanding free skate on Saturday to secure her second national championship and a berth at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Leading second-place Wakaba Higuchi by 4.57 points after Thursday's short program, the 21-year-old Sakamoto totaled a season-best 234.06 at Saitama Super Arena as she reclaimed the women's singles crown she first won in 2018.

Sakamoto executed seven triple jumps — including a triple flip-triple toe loop combination — scoring 154.83 for her free routine and finishing the competition 12.28 ahead of Higuchi.

Mana Kawabe rounded out the podium 12.13 points back, with Mai Mihara fourth with 206.86. Four-time national champion Satoko Miyahara, who finished fourth at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, was fifth with 206.51 points.

Sakamoto, the runner-up last year to back-to-back national champion Rika Kihira, raised both of her hands in joy as she exited the ice.

"I couldn't be happier, I'm absolutely thrilled," said the 21-year-old Kobe native, who was still in high school when she finished sixth in her Olympic debut in Pyeongchang. "A weight has been lifted off me."

The four-day nationals, which wrap up Sunday, are the final qualification event for February's Beijing Games. The Japan Skating Federation will officially announce the Olympic team, with three competitors each in men's and women's singles, after the championships conclude.

The 19-year-old Kihira, previously considered the best medal chance among the Japanese women, pulled out before nationals due to a stress fracture in her right ankle and will not compete at the Olympics.

In ice dancing, Misato Komatsubara and Takeru Komatsubara, also known as Tim Koleto, clinched their fourth straight national title after narrowly beating Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi.

The husband-and-wife pair came in with a big enough lead from Thursday's rhythm dance to win by 1.86 points despite finishing second behind Muramoto and Takahashi in the free dance.

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