BOSTON - A long program yet to come, Gracie Gold feels confident enough to declare that perhaps it’s time for the first world title by an American woman in a decade.
“We’re only halfway through, but I can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel that maybe the drought is ending, which would be amazing,” Gold said after taking the lead in Thursday’s short program.
No U.S. woman has even finished on the podium since Kimmie Meissner took gold and Sasha Cohen bronze in 2006. But at a home world championships, the Americans now have a chance at two medals with Ashley Wagner in fourth.
Gold scored 76.43 points, followed by Russian teens Anna Pogorilaya (73.98) and Evgenia Medvedeva (73.76) and Wagner (73.16). Three-time world champion Mao Asada finished ninth with 65.87 points.
Starting with Wagner, seven of the final skaters were all sharp, making for a bunched leaderboard going into Saturday’s free skate. The third Russian teen, Elena Radionova, was fifth with 71.70 points, followed by last season’s runner-up, Satoko Miyahara (70.72) and Rika Hongo (69.89). Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman took eighth on 67.38, followed by Mao and Japanese-American Mirai Nagasu in 10th (65.74).
“I’m happy for 50 percent, because the free skate is still to come,” Pogorilaya said, according to isu.org. “It is too early to celebrate. When I went out, I was very focused . . . I just kept a cool head and I took it one step at a time in the program. . .”
Compatriot Medvedeva said, “Well, when you miss one element, the one you want to do the combination with, you get tense, because you need to switch your mindset and do another combination that you haven’t trained so much. You have to fight and you cannot make mistakes.”
Mao has been training with discomfort in her left knee and is in less-than-stellar form, coach Nobuo Sato said.
“It’s difficult for her,” Sato said. “She’s not completely fit, and is running on empty.”
Mao under-rotated the opening triple axel and landed on her hands.
Mao had not been executing her trademark element to her usual standards in practice.
“I wasn’t sharp enough on the triple axel, which is too bad,” said Mao, now 25. “But I thought I skated as well as I could the rest of the way. It is what it is. I have to accept everything that comes at me.”
Gold, who was born in the Boston area, won her first U.S. title here at TD Garden two years ago.
At January’s U.S. Championships, her short program was shaky from the start and afterward pronounced herself “flummoxed.”
But Thursday’s performance “was a really magical moment.”
Also Thursday, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France successfully defended their ice dance title.
The French pair backed up their first-place finish in the short dance with a record score in the free dance, posting the second-highest total of all-time at 194.46 points en route to the title.
Four Continents champions Maia and Alex Shibutani took second place with 188.43, while 2015 world silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished on 85.77 points. Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed placed 15th.