Murakami captures Skate America title

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Kanako Murakami stepped off the dais after fielding questions about her gold medal-winning performance at Skate America and was confronted by a gaggle of photographers and photo flashes.

News photo
Grace under pressure: Kanako Murakami performs her free skate program at Skate America on Sunday.

By the way the 16-year-old sprite charmed the crowd at the Grand Prix event in Portland, she’s going to have to get used to those cameras.

With a victory in Skate America, the world junior champion earned a trip to the Grand Prix final in Beijing in early December.

“I wasn’t even expecting to be here,” she said. “And I didn’t expect to be in the final of the Grand Prix, so I’m very shocked and surprised.”

It was the first senior Grand Prix title for Murakami, who delighted the fans with her rock-and-roll short program the day before. While she struggled with one jump and later fell, Murakami’s final score of 164.93 put her in front of American Rachael Flatt (162.86).

“When I found out I had won I was so surprised, I didn’t know if it was real or not,” said Murakami. “I am happy to win but I have many things to work on. Even so, this boosts my confidence. Next time I win I would like to do so when all of the other skaters have perfect performances.”

Murakami, who was third at the NHK Trophy on her senior debut, matched Mao Asada, an alumnus of the same Chukyo High School, for the fastest pace to win a senior title. Mao also achieved the feat in her second senior event in 2005.

“I feel like I have closed the gap a little between myself and skaters like Mao,” Murakami said – Japan Times