U.S. champion Gracie Gold has work ahead of her if she’s to win her first senior international title at Skate America on Sunday.
She sat behind Russians Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (67.41 points, video here) and Elena Radionova (65.57, video here) after the short program in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Saturday. Gold scored 60.81 (video here).
Gold two-footed a landing on her opening triple-triple jump combination but didn’t fall as she did in her season debut in Germany last month, when she was a disappointing third in a weaker field. She erred on a final spin, though.
Tuktamysheva, 17, who didn’t make Russia’s Olympic team, had the cleanest short program.
Radionova, the two-time reigning World junior champion, was third at Skate America last year but too young for the Sochi Olympics. Radionova’s program Saturday included Jennifer Lopez‘s “Aint it Funny,” with Lopez’s vocal lyrics, allowed under a new rule this season. The Lopez song came out in 2001, when Radionova was 2 years and 10 days old.
NBC will air coverage of the women’s free skate Sunday (4-6 ET).
The women’s figure skating scene is largely changed from before the Sochi Olympics. Silver medalist Yuna Kim retired. World champion Mao Asada is taking the season off. As is Olympic and World bronze medalist Carolina Kostner.
What’s left is a Russian-heavy crowd, led by Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova and World silver medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya, who have yet to debut this season.
Gold, who was fourth at the Olympics and fifth at the World Championships in March, is the top returning non-Russian this season.
On Saturday, American Mirai Nagasu, who placed fourth at the 2010 Olympics, fell on her opening triple flip and popped the second jump of a combination. She scored 49.29 points for 10th place.
Nagasu, third at the 2014 U.S. Championships but left off the three-woman U.S. Olympic team, scored 9.67 fewer points Saturday than Samantha Cesario, who was fifth at the U.S. Championships. Cesario stood fourth after the short program.
Earlier, Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov topped the pairs short program with 69.16 points. U.S. pairs were third, fourth and fifth — Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier (61.08), Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim (60.61) and Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage (58.41).
Russian Olympic pairs champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov pulled out of Skate America and the Grand Prix season on Oct. 1 due to Trankov’s shoulder injury.
Kavaguti and Smirnov were the top Russian pair at the 2010 Olympics, placing fourth, but missed most of last season, including the Sochi Olympics, due to Smirnov’s knee injury.
A U.S. pair hasn’t won a Skate America title since 2006, a World Championships medal since 2002 and an Olympic medal since 1988.
Skate America continues Saturday with the free dance (8 p.m. ET) and men’s free skate (9:30).