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Figure skating: Miyahara books spot in Pyeongchang

Satoko Miyahara competes in the Japanese national championships at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza in Chofu, western Tokyo, on Dec. 23, 2017. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Satoko Miyahara booked a spot on Japan's team for February's Pyeongchang Olympics by winning her fourth straight Japan national women's figure skating championship on Saturday.

    Miyahara rocked a solid free skate at the national figure skating championships at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza to finish with 220.39 points and earn her first Olympic berth. The 19-year-old was marked down on two of her jump combinations, but still won by a wide margin over 17-year-old Kaori Sakamoto.

    "Of all my championships to date, this one makes me the happiest," said Miyahara, who missed this year's worlds in March with a stress fracture in her left hip. "Having won three straight Japan titles, I had to win this one, because I absolutely wanted to go (to the Olympics)."

    "I'm now poised for the next big step in my skating career."

    Sakamoto, who entered the day with a 0.36-point lead over Miyahara after Thursday's short program, finished with 213.51, while junior Rika Kihira was third with 208.03.

    "My first jump was a little frightening and I was too anxious for the start, and I don't remember much after that," Sakamoto said. "I'm glad I could end the year with a performance like this. It also seems like the Olympics are become a little more of a possibility."

    "I was nervous the entire day, but now I'm free of that."

    Sakamoto, who earned a silver medal in her first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit this year, is now in a good spot to grab the second spot Japan has for women in Pyeongchang.

    The 15-year-old Kihira, who is too young to qualify for the Olympics, nailed a pair of high-difficulty triple axels to finish second in the free skate with 141.29 points behind Miyahara's 147.16.

    "Amid all the tension, I'm glad I was able to perform those things I'd mastered in practice," said Kihira, who was fourth at this year's junior Grand Prix Final. "I've learned a lot in my competitions this year and I was able to employ that here."

    Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara won the pairs championship, which will factor in the consideration for the Olympic team composition when the Japan Skating Federation announces its squad on Sunday.

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