Kaori Sakamoto: “I think this time to completely overwrite my memories from the last Worlds held in Saitama. I want to save good memories and overwrite the bad ones.”
Article and small interview with Kaori Sakamoto ahead of World Championships.
source: jbpress.ismedia.jp dd. 17 March 2023 by Takaomi Matsubara
! Please take into account that interview was translated via machine translation so it may not be completely accurate or conveying all the details and nuances. !
Not forgetting the 2019 World Championships
Last season, she won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics. She also won her first World Championship title, becoming the first Japanese woman to win a gold medal in eight years since Mao Asada. Her performances not only showed her high level of technique, but also conveyed a rich artistic expression.
Although there have been some tough competitions this season after the Olympic year, Sakamoto has continued to shine as one of the world’s top skaters, as shown by her impressive victory at the end of last year’s Japanese National Championships.
As the season progresses, the biggest goal on the horizon is the World Championships, the pinnacle of the season. Sakamoto approaches this competition with even greater determination and passion than for any other competition.
She has not forgotten that day even now. March 22, 2019.
On that day, the women’s free skate of the World Championships took place. The location was Saitama Super Arena. As the full arena watched, the skaters performed, and the final group was about to take the ice. Sakamoto was among them.
As the Japanese representative at the competition, Sakamoto had already delivered a flawless performance in the short program, setting a new personal best and starting off in second place going into the free skate.
Her good shape continued into the free skate.
Her program was choreographed to “Piano”. As the music started, she began landing each of her signature jumps, one after the other. But it wasn’t just the jumps. Along with her smooth skating, Sakamoto showed off her majestic skating skills, and applause rained down from the audience as the atmosphere in the arena grew more and more electric.
It was during the latter part of her performance, when it seemed like she was going to continue without a hitch, that an unexpected mistake occurred. She approached the planned combination of a triple flip – double toe loop. However, during the first jump, the triple flip became a single rotation, resulting in an incomplete jump.
The mistake on a jump that should have been a valuable source of points had an impact, and she finished the competition in 5th place. If not for that mistake, she would have surely climbed onto the podium.
Sakamoto reflects on that moment and says, “At that time, the medal flashed through my head…I thought, ‘If I pull this off, I’ll get a medal,’ and then it happened.”
The atmosphere in the arena at that time is also vividly etched in her memory.
“I could hear the audience say ‘Ah’ and I thought ‘Ah’ too. The voices I heard and my own emotions, I just can’t forget them.”
The strong regret came from the fact that the process leading up to the competition was fulfilling.
Preparing for the World Championships, she had her choreography polished by choreographer Benoit Richaud. Her preparation for the competition was not just that.
“For two weeks before the competitions, I’ve been staying at Mitsuko Graham’s (one of the coaches) house, and slimmed down my body.”
She also increased her training volume and aimed for perfection. In fact, everything was in order.
“Despite going to the competition in perfect shape, I was so frustrated with the result. After that, I indulged in food.”
After the World Championships, which she poured all her energy into, there was a backlash, and although her performance suffered the following season, she used the experience to make a comeback and continue to evolve.
And today, she has reached the top of the world.
She has won numerous medals. However, she hasn’t forgotten that World Championships.
On the night of the free skate, after going to bed, she gradually calmed down and felt like she returned to her usual daily life.
Time has passed since then. But…
“I still feel like ‘that’s how it was back then’ is still lingering in the back of my mind.”
That’s why, ahead of the World Championships to be held at the same Saitama Super Arena as four years ago, she speaks like this.
“I think this time is the one to completely overwrite those memories. I want to save good memories and overwrite the bad ones,” said Kaori Sakamoto, who has been preparing tirelessly for competitions after Japanese Nationals.
If she wins, she will become the first Japanese athlete in history to win to world titles in a row in both the men’s and women’s categories.
Kaori Sakamoto remains grounded and focused, not letting anything shake her determination.
Mai Mihara: “I want to deliver my best performance at the World Championships, which is my long-awaited dream. I don’t want to just participate, I want to show my best skating.”