Yuna Kim takes early lead at Worlds

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Vancouver gold medalist Yuna Kim made her comeback look easy Thursday, winning the short program at her first major competition since 2011.

“I was worried because it has been a long time since I competed at the world championships,” she said. “But at the same time I was confident.”

Kim glided to a 69.97 to go up more than three points on defending world champ Carolina Kostner of Italy, who earned 66.86 for her short program. Kanako Murakami of Japan sits in third, and her teammate, two-time world champ Mao Asada, is in sixth after flubbing a combination.

The American girls didn’t wow anyone on day one, but both put in solid performances as U.S. champ Ashely Wagner slid into fifth and Gracie Gold ended up in ninth – the same position she sat in at nationals before an impressive free skate propelled her to silver.

“The short program is harder for me than my long program,” Gold told USA Today after scoring 58.85 on Thursday. “But I do love it and know I can skate it really well. So I’m glad that I showed the judges and the audience and everyone watching what I can do under pressure.”

Wagner and Gold need to combine for thirteenth place or better in order for the U.S. to get a third slot in next February’s Sochi Olympics.

Watch NBC Sports’ Alpine skiing World Cup preview video

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NBC Sports will air coverage of 87 Alpine skiing races at 22 resorts across the globe this fall and winter, from October through March, in the final full season before the 2018 Olympics.

Highlights include fall and winter stops in the U.S. with races in Killington, Vt.; Beaver Creek, Colo.; Squaw Valley, Calif.; and the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., in March.

Lindsey Vonn‘s highlighted World Cup stop will be downhill and super-G races in Lake Louise, Canada, the first weekend of December.

The world championships in February will be in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin will look to defend titles.


Skier goes airborne in World Cup opener (video)

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Canadian skier Phil Brown was fortunate to walk away from an airborne crash at the World Cup season opener in Soelden, Austria, on Sunday.

Brown failed to finish his first run, losing contact with the snow early on and falling hard onto his side.

He tweeted a video of the crash, with slow-motion replays, with a soundtrack of Irish singer Enya‘s “Only Time.”

The World Cup season continues with men’s and women’s slaloms in Levi, Finland, in three weeks.

MORE: Ted Ligety recovers to finish fifth in first race in 9 months