(3/29/17) – The American ladies are within podium striking distance following the short program on Wednesday at the 2017 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

U.S. champion Karen Chen leads the way after a personal best, 69.98-point program that landed her in fifth place and defending World silver medalist Ashley Wagner trails closely in seventh place (69.04 points). American Mariah Bell also had a solid skate and is in 13th place (61.02).

Chen, who skated in the second to last group, gained early momentum with a triple lutz-triple toe combination. She landed two other jumps and was awarded three Level 4 spins.

“I am very happy with my performance,” Chen said. “I just really wanted to skate a clean short and I just did that and I’m really happy with how everything came together.”

Wagner skated clean, landing a double axel, triple loop and triple flip-triple toe combination.

“I’m extremely satisfied with what I put out there tonight,” Wagner said. “So I mean, to be one of many 69-point somethings is great and now I know exactly what I have to do for the long program.”

Bell, who was the first American to take the ice, overcame an early “bobble,” but recovered nicely to complete a solid skate.

“[The short program] has this season been a program that has been a little more mentally challenging for me so to be able to go out and put a solid skate out in the short, I feel even more confident in my long because I’m more comfortable in my long anyway,” Bell said.

All three ladies will compete in Friday’s free skate.

In the pairs competition, Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knieirm thrilled the crowd with a beautiful short program. They earned 72.17 points behind a strong triple twist and a throw triple flip to finish the night in eighth place. The score was a personal best.

“We’re very happy,” Knierim said. “Having the opportunity to be here and be on the team is such a huge honor for us, especially after not competing during the first half of the season and [U.S. championships]. We’re happy that our federation had faith in us to get the job done.”

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier earned 56.23 points to finish 20th in the short program. They were forced to count two falls.

“[That skate] wasn’t how we normally train,” Denney said. “Both [of our mistakes] were silly. Our throw was out of the ordinary and the salchows, that [was out of the ordinary] too. It was not our best, but we had a good fight through the rest of the program.”

Scimeca Knierim and Knierim qualified for Thursday’s free skate.

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