Russia's Alena Leonova captured the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships on Thursday.
Leonova, fourth at last year's Worlds, finished with a score of 64.61, edging Japan's Kanako Murakami for the top spot. Murakami posted a 62.67 short program, while Italy's Carolina Kostner was next at 61.
Kostner won the bronze medal last year and is the reigning European champion.
Japan's Mao Asada, world champion in 2008 and 2010, sits fourth after the short program, just ahead of countrymate Akiko Suzuki.
The top American is Ashley Wagner in eighth place, while fellow American Alissa Czisny is 16th. Canada's Amelie Lacoste is 13th.
Last year's winner, Miki Ando, is not competing, while Olympic champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea is also absent.
The free skate is Saturday.