Mariah Bell in third at World Skating Championships after short program

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The world figure skating championships are underway in Montpellier, France, with the women’s short program taking place Wednesday. All three U.S. Olympians are present at the event, with Mariah Bell leading the American contingent after the short program, recording a personal-best 72.55 points for third place.

Bell sits just 2.45 points behind Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx, who is in second with 75 points. Leader Kaori Sakamoto from Japan posted a score of 80.32.

Alysa Liu scored 71.91 points, which put her in fifth place and .17 points behind South Korea’s You Young in fourth, while Karen Chen sits in eighth with 66.16 points after popping a triple loop.

All three U.S. skaters are looking to become the first American woman to win a world medal since Ashley Wagner took silver in 2016.

This will mark the first time since 2018 that a non-Russian skater will win the world title. Russian skaters were banned from competing after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. At last year’s world championships, the Russian team swept the medals, and the nation had first, second and fourth place finishes at last month’s Olympics.

“With the Russian skaters no longer taking part in this competition, all of a sudden I was considered to be the gold medalist candidate,” Sakamoto said through a translator according to NBC Sports. “In the beginning, because I wasn’t really in top form, it was hard for me to try to push myself, and I also felt a gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. But over the days, my performance started to really pick up, and gradually I was able to tell myself that it wasn’t really the result that counted.”

Bell finished in 10th at the Olympics, while Liu took seventh.

“Part of the Olympic hangover helped me,” said Bell. “I rested a lot the last couple of weeks but was able to train well.”

Liu cried after posting a clean program but said that her tears were not due to sadness.

“I don’t know if I looked I sad, maybe I did, but they were happy tears,” she said.

The women’s short program will re-air on Friday starting at 1 p.m. ET on USA Network. The free skate will get underway at the same time on Peacock, with the remainder of the event airing on USA starting at 3 p.m. ET.