Bronze medalist Sakamoto’s “hard work” pays off

Bronze medalist Sakamoto’s “hard work” pays off- BPN TODAY

BEIJING — Kaori Sakamoto came from behind to claim the bronze medal in the women’s figure skating event at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday. The Kobe native racked up a total of 233.13 points after taking 153.29 points and third place in the free program.

Despite the tense atmosphere pervading the rink, Sakamoto pulled out an almost perfect performance.

However, she had to wait to find out her final position, as Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee had yet to skate. Valieva ultimately placed fourth, having previously earned the highest score in Tuesday’s short program, in which Sakamoto came third.

“All my hard work has paid off,” a teary-eyed Sakamoto said. “All I can say is that I’m extremely happy.”

In her Japan home, Sakamoto keeps a commendation certificate from the Kinki Regional competition that she won in October. Having struggled at the time with the competition’s complicated choreography — renewed for the free program — she run out of steam and made a series of errors in the latter part of her program. Despite winning, she says was disappointed with her performance, and felt the urge to tear up the certificate and throw it away.

However, she was determined to learn a lesson from this self-perceived “failure.” Accordingly, she decided to hang the certificate in her room. Every time she saw it, she recalls saying to herself, “If I suffer now [through hard training], I’ll be able to finish a competition with a smile on my face.”

Sakamoto intensified running practice, one of her least favorite exercises. As a result, however, her free program improved with each competition.

She also overcame a slump that followed the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, where she placed sixth. Sakamoto came sixth at the 2019 Japan Figure Skating Championships, too, where she had been expected to win her second consecutive title.

No matter how hard she tried, she repeatedly faltered when it came to high-level jumps, even fearing at one point that her skating career was drawing to an end. Nevertheless, she was determined to compete in Beijing “to better the Pyeongchang performance.”

Ignoring advice from those around her, Sakamoto decided to work on the quality of her overall performance, rather than merely trying to master complex jumps.

Since childhood, Sakamoto has been described as “competitive” and “eager to win.”

“Yes, she’s lucky,” said her coach, Sonoko Nakano. “But it’s her hard work that has attracted that luck.”

Indeed, Sakamoto has never stopped moving forward, drawn by the light of self-belief at the end of her path

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