BOSTON — A long program yet to come, Gracie Gold feels confident enough to declare that perhaps it's time for the first world figure skating 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, the U.S. champion, said after taking the lead in Thursday's short program.
No U.S. woman has even finished in the top three since Kimmie Meissner took gold and Sasha Cohen bronze in 2006. But at a home World Championships, the Americans have a chance at two medals with Ashley Wagner in fourth.
Gold scored 76.43 points, followed by Russians Anna Pogorilaya (73.98) and Evgenia Medvedeva (73.76), and Wagner (73.16), who was third at the U.S. Championships.
Starting with Wagner, seven of the final skaters were all sharp Thursday, making for a bunched leaderboard going into Saturday's long program. A third Russian teen, Elena Radionova, was fifth with 71.70 points, followed by Japan's Satoko Miyahara (70.72) and Rika Hongo (69.89).
At January's U.S. Championships, Gold's short program was shaky from the start. On her opening triple-triple combination, she managed only a single lutz and afterward pronounced herself "flummoxed."
But Thursday's performance "was a really magical moment." She skated to an Argentine tango with passion and power. Gold could have received an even higher score if not for an edge that was slightly off on her triple flip takeoff.
Her coach, Frank Carroll, worked with the last American singles skater to earn a World Championships medal: Evan Lysacek, who won in 2009, the last time the event was in the United States.
"(Gold) skates so consistently day in and day out (in practice), short and long program," Carroll said, "the maddening thing about it is when she doesn't (in competition)." No such problems Thursday. "I was absolutely delighted," he said.
An ice dance repeat; two medals for U.S.
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France repeated as ice dance champions by posting the highest free dance score ever, and U.S. teams finished second and third.
Papadakis and Cizeron scored a record 118.17 points for a total of 194.46, the second-best total score under a points system implemented in 2005. Only Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White's 195.52 from the 2014 Olympics was better.
American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, the U.S. champions, scored 113.73 points for a total of 188.43 for their second World Championships medal and first since 2011. Madison Chock and Evan Bates, last year's runnersup, scored 113.31 points for 185.77 total.
The top three was unchanged from the short dance.
The United States earned multiple medals in a single World Championships event for the first time since 2011, when Davis and White took gold and the Shibutanis bronze in the Shibutanis' first season as senior skaters.