Trusova, now back under coach Eteri Tutberidze, leads training mate Daria Usacheva and fellow Russian Kseniia Sinitsyna in Las Vegas. Earlier, Team USA's Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue topped the rhythm dance.
Despite not jumping her regular triple Axel, Russia's Alexandra Trusova, the 2021 world bronze medallist, leads the women's event at 2021 Skate America after Saturday's (23 October) short program.
Three clean jumping passes – a double Axel, triple flip, and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination – coupled with some fine artistry were enough to achieve the top score of 77.69, leading a Russian 1-2-3 finish as Daria Usacheva and Kseniia Sinitsyna joined her atop the standings.
That was Trusova's personal best score in international competitions, with her previous high of 74.95 set at the 2020 European Championships.
Trusova's participation at one point was in question this week, when the teen missed Friday practice after skating in Thursday's session. But she showed up late for the Saturday morning practice session, making it clear she would compete after all.
The 1-2-3 finish for the three Russian women is a harbinger of what's to come this Grand Prix season with as many as seven skaters chasing after three ROC team spots for Beijing 2022.
Japan's Sakamoto Kaori in fourth is the top non-Russian after the short at the opening ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix of the season in Las Vegas.
Earlier, in the rhythm dance, reigning American national champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue held off a spirited challenge from fellow U.S. dancers and training partners Madison Chock and Evan Bates.
For the longest time, Usacheva – who like Trusova trains under Eteri Tutberidze – seemed like finishing the day in the lead.
Skating third of the 12 skaters to Never Enough from the Greatest Showman soundtrack, Usacheva was flawless on her technical elements – outscoring even Trusova – and watched on as none of those who followed were able to topple her, until Trusova who went last.
Trusova said about the decision to compete on Saturday: "Yes [I] was between... competing and withdrawing, [but] this morning I woke up and I decided to skate."
She added: "I won't give any more details... it's a foot injury. ... I skated clean, but I'm a little bit sad that I didn't do my triple Axel, so hopefully I'm going to do it next time."
The U.S. charge on home soil was led by Amber Glenn, Audrey Shin, and Starr Andrews, who finished 7th, 9th, and 10th respectively.
"It's very bizarre for me," Glenn said of being the No.1 U.S. woman at Skate America after two-time national champion Bradie Tennell withdrew with a foot injury prior to the event. "It did give me a lot of confidence. I've felt great in practice. (But) this is my first big ISU event since Four Continents (2020), so we wanted to come in here and put out a performance that I was happy with and unfortunately I'm not very happy with how I did."
Glenn opted not to do the triple Axel, which she had landed successfully in practice this week. She'll look to use the jump in the free skate.
Republic of Korea skaters You Young and Kim Yelim were fifth and sixth, respectively, while Miyahara Satoko of Japan was eighth.
In dance, Hubbell and Donohue, skating to songs by Janet Jackson, were solid throughout their routine with only a few minor errors, such as Donohue breaking one of his twizzles. They were the only couple of the nine competing to score a level 3 for their Midnight Blues 1st Section, achieving three of the four required key points.
Their performance also scored highly, with the 2021 world silver medallists receiving the highest score for program components in addition to their technical elements for a total of 83.58 points.
Chock and Bates, who train with Hubbell and Donohue under Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon at the Ice Academy of Montreal, were just over a point behind on 82.55, competing to a routine set to music by Billie Eilish.
While their technical elements mostly matched their teammates', they comparatively lost points on the Midnight Blues 1st Section, only receiving a level 2.
Canada's Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen scored 75.33 and Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz of Spain were fourth for a 1-2-3-4 finish for the Montreal-based teams.
Speaking at the press conference following the rhythm dance, Hubbell said of the judging and the levels awarded by the judges: "I would say that coming into this competition and seeing some of the levels that were given at Finlandia (Trophy), we were kind of expecting a very tough panel.
"Zach and I, going into this Skate America, there were a few things we wanted to use to our advantage, to our experience, one being that most of the (judging) panel are also going to be at the Olympics. We definitely left a lot of points on the table, we're hoping that with those technical points we can get closer to 90, but today that was enough."
Bates, who competed at the Finlandia Trophy Challenger Series event, added: "We were in Finland. Today we got a bit lower levels, but we felt we skated a little bit better. We were coming off ice not expecting the levels to be as low as what we saw on the screen backstage. We really attacked the program and felt it was a step up from Finland."
On the subject of facing pressure, Hubbell responded: "You can't deny that there's nerves and some pressure, the way we deal with it is by communicating, opening up and saying our worst fears out loud.
"Looking at our whole season, we try to look at what would be most important to us at the end of the year when we retire, and when we look back."
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