Alena Leonova of Russia set the pace in the ladies' event at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, while Canada's Amelie Lacoste was left hoping she's just close enough to nab a spot in the top 10.

The 21-year-old Leonova, dressed in a pirate's ruffled blouse and black pants and boots, scored 64.61 points for her whimsical skate to the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean to take the lead heading into Saturday's free program in Nice, France (Bold,, 12:30 p.m. ET).

Kanako Murakami of Japan was second with 62.67 points, while Italy's Carolina Kostner scored 61.00 to sit third.

Lacoste, Canada's lone entry in the women's event, was 13th with a score of 49.37.

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A top-10 finish is key for Lacoste, because it would give Canada two women's entries in next year's world championships in London, Ont.

"I really tried to put that aside but of course it's still a little bit in my head," said Lacoste, who was 4.8 points out of a top-10 result. "It's a game, so I need to deal with it. My goal is top-10 but I need to focus first on my performance to achieve that goal."

The 2013 world championships, in turn, determines how many entries a country will have in each discipline at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The 23-year-old from Delson, Que., skating to Duke Ellington's Satin Doll, lost several points for stepping out of the first triple loop of a planned triple loop-triple loop combination, and so didn't receive marks for a combination.

"It hurts a lot because usually I can get about 6.8, and I only got 3-point-something," said Lacoste, who was 16th last year in her world championship debut. "But the event is not done. There's still space for the long program to be in the top-10 so I'm very confident of that."

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Two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan fell on her triple Axel — she was the only woman in the field to attempt the jump — and wound up fourth.

American champion Ashley Wagner was eighth.

Leonova was a big hit with the crowd at the Palais des Expositions in a women's field that's considered among the weakest in recent memory. Neither Olympic champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea nor last year's champion Miki Ando of Japan are skating this season.

Canada's Olympic bronze medallist Joannie Rochette is taking a break from the competitive ice, and hasn't announced whether she'll return to skate in Sochi.

This year marks the second time the world championships have been held in Nice, an unlikely spot for a winter sporting event in the city situated in the heart of the French Riviera. Several skating officials sported tans from soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine as temperatures climbed above 20 C Thursday.

The arena is just a few blocks walk along cobblestone streets lined with palm trees and orange trees from the beautiful Bay of Angels.

Virtue & Moir go for gold

The ice dance competition will be decided later Thursday, with Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir looking to hold onto their lead over American pursuers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the defending champions.

Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are also in contention for a medal after placing fourth in Wednesday's short program. They trail crowd favourites Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France.

Watch the entire free dance live on Bold and starting at 1 p.m. ET. Join figure skating analyst Pj Kwong for a live chat during the final flights, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.

With files from