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.
Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen is pregnant and will not compete this year.
“Just kind of take this year a little bit easier,” Jorgensen said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.
The baby is due Aug. 3, according to Jorgensen’s social media.
Jorgensen, 30, became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion in Rio after going in as the heavy favorite. She has said for months that she planned to take time off to have a baby before returning to defend her Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.
Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 silver medalist, is reportedly expecting a child in May.
In Jorgensen and Spirig’s absences, the top triathletes going into the season are defending world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes and Sarah True and Britons Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.
Jorgensen’s last competition was the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, when she finished 14th in her first running race longer than 10 miles.
The World Triathlon Series kicks off in Abu Dhabi the first weekend of March.
MORE: Triathlon federation boss wants Olympic races shortened
The PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the first Winter Games in South Korea, are a little more than one year away.
A number of U.S. stars are establishing themselves in this winter sports season as medal contenders.
NBC Sports takes a look at some of those names to watch, as the U.S. looks to return to the top of the medal standings.
Russia earned the most medals at home in Sochi in 2014 with 33 medals, with the U.S. coming in second with 28. Those standings could change if Russian results are stripped due to its ongoing doping scandal.
The U.S. has never topped the total medal standings at a Winter Olympics outside of North America. It led the way at Lake Placid 1932 and Vancouver 2010.
VIDEO: PyeongChang 2018 Olympic venue tour