Ms McKay, a four times British national champion, scored a personal best of 58.15 to place 23rd in the short programme of the women’s competition, after a strong performance at the event in Stockholm – the first major figure skating competition in over a year.
The top 24 skaters will compete in the free skate in two days time.
Russian skater Anna Shcherbakova is lying in first place after the short programme with a score of 81 points, closely followed by Japan’s Rika Kihira with 79.08. Her teamate Elisaveta Tuktamysheva – at 24, the first non teen to compete for Russia in the World Championships since 2013 – is in third place with 78.86. She won the world championships title in 2015.
McKay said that she has only been able to train for an hour and a half a day, for four days a week in the run-up to the competition due to lockdown regulations which have seen ice rinks around Scotland closed since Christmas. Elite athletes have been allowed to continue training where they can, although rink closures have made it difficult.
She said: "I am super excited to have made the free skate. It has been a really tough season and I am grateful for the support of everyone within my team. My coaches have been amazing to keep me going during these crazy times and I am grateful for that. It was strange competing in an empty stadium but the other team members from GBR were amazing and it helped me so much. I will concentrate on the free skate and give it everything on Friday."
She added: “I am very happy. I haven’t competed in a year, so to be able to go out and skate, I’m grateful just to be here.
“I have been training four days a week, for one and a half hours, which is not a lot of ice time, so I have been trying to fit a lot into every session.”
McKay’s coach, Simon Briggs, said: “I am very pleased with Natsha's performance. She went out there and skated her heart out. I am proud she qualified for the Free Program and has a shot at qualifying a spot for the Olympic Winter Games 2022.”
The competition has followed strict coronavirus protocols, including testing all athletes before they travelled, as well as after arrival and during the competition.
Only one athlete so far – a Belarusian female skater – has tested positive for the virus and has been put into quarantine.
British pairs skaters Zoe Jones – at 41 the oldest skater in the entire competition – and her partner Christopher Boyardji scored 38.79 in the short programme and did not qualify for the free skate. The pair train in Swindon, England.
The ice dance competition, which features Scottish skater Lewis Gibson and partner Lilah Fear, will begin on Friday. English skater PJ Hallam will also compete in the men’s competition for Great Britain.