Japan saw its campaign for a first World Team Trophy win since 2017 get off to a shaky start on Thursday, with captain Kaori Sakamoto suffering an uncharacteristic fall as the host ended the night in third behind a strong United States led by Ilia “QuadGod” Malinin and second-place South Korea.

Team USA looking to win the event for a fifth time, took a total of 50 points to build a sizeable lead over South Korea (39) and Japan (36) at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

“I’m really proud of my team, what a way to kick off the event,” U.S. captain Jason Brown said. “There’s nothing like competing in Japan and doing it as a team is extra special.”

Sakamoto, the reigning two-time women’s singles champion, struggled to position herself well when landing the first part of her triple flip-triple toeloop combination, then splashed onto the ice while attempting the latter jump during her short program to “Rock with U / Feedback."

The Kobe native, who turned 23 on Sunday, said she followed her heart in attempting to complete the triple-triple.

“The same issue came up a few times in practice, so it’s just another case where problems in practice showed up in the program,” Sakamoto said. “In terms of my posture it would have been better to make it a double, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go that way or challenge myself with the triple, but I felt like trying to make the triple work somehow and then I fell on the landing.”

Sakamoto, who scored 72.69 points, ended the short program in second behind South Korea’s Lee Hae-in and ahead of American Isabeau Levito, but vowed to improve her performance in Friday’s free skate.

“The World Team Trophy isn’t about our combined scores, so at any rate I want to climb one place higher and give Japan the maximum number of points,” Sakamoto said.

Her teammate Mai Mihara ended the short program in fifth, landing her early triple flip but underrotating the second part of her double lutz-triple toeloop combo.

Japan fared little better in the men’s short program, with Kazuki Tomono and Shun Sato — a late alternate for injured world champion Shoma Uno — and both falling during their respective performances, ending the night in seventh and 11th, respectively.

Tomono’s fall in particular was disappointing, coming on the quad salchow following his clean quad toeloop-triple toeloop that opened his program set to “Happy Jazz.”

Topping the men’s table was rising American star Malinin, who set a personal best of 105.90 to “I Put a Spell on You.” The 18-year-old, who cleanly landed a quad lutz-triple toeloop, quad toeloop and a triple axel, credited ice shows he participated in following March’s world championships with honing his performance.

“I heard (my teammates’) support even in the middle of the program, so I’m really grateful, they helped me go through this,” Malinin said.

South Korea captain Cha Jun-hwan, coming off his second-place finish in the worlds at Saitama Super Arena, was delighted at his team’s performance in the country’s debut at the event.

“We talked about how it’s our first time, so let’s really enjoy and skate really happily,” said the 21-year-old, who finished second in the men’s short program behind Malinin. “Today we really nailed that goal, so I’m super proud of them.”

The day opened with reigning ice dance world champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates putting Team USA into the lead after scoring 93.91 in the rhythm dance, just over three points ahead of Italian couple Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (90.90).

Canadian duo Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier followed in third with 88.37.

Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi, who finished 11th at the world championships, approached their personal best with 78.38 after bringing the crowd to its feet early with their program set to “Conga/Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.”

The World Team Trophy is the last event of the figure skating season, featuring the top six countries as ranked by the International Skating Union.

Each country receives points based on its skaters’ rankings in each discipline, with the winner receiving a $1 million prize.