Gracie Gold in 3rd after Skate America short program

Gracie Gold

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.

Tatsuki Machida leads Americans after men’s short program

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).

Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski preview Skate America

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen

Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

Sifan Hassan

Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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