MILAN, ITALY - American quad-jumping sensation Nathan Chen surged to the lead after the men’s short program as Shoma Uno struggled in fifth at the world championships on Thursday.
Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of has skipped the post-games worlds with an ankle injury, along with former two-time winner Javier Fernandez of Spain, who took Olympic bronze in Pyeongchang.
Chen — the Grand Prix Final champion — made up for his nervy short program in South Korea, which resulted in his fifth-place finish in South Korea.
Despite a wobbly landing on his triple axel in Milan, the 18-year-old nailed all his elements in his routine to Benjamin Clementine’s “Nemesis” to earn 101.94 points.
“It wasn’t a perfect short program but I’ll take it,” said the skater from Salt Lake City.
“It was definitely pretty great to be able to come back here and skate like I did,” Chen added of his disappointing Olympics. I’m using what I learned in the Olympics here.”
Russian Mikhail Kolyada was second best with 100.08, followed by last year’s world junior champion Vincent Zhou of the United States (96.78, China’s Jin Boyang (95.85) and Uno (94.26).
Chen became the first figure skater to land six quads as he set an Olympic record in the free skate four weeks ago and he vowed “to try five quads” in Saturday’s free skating final.
But he added: “Ideally to skate clean.”
In Hanyu’s absence 20-year-old Uno was seen as favorite to move up from his silver medal last year after finishing runner-up at the Olympics. But Uno left Tuesday’s practice early with an injury to his right ankle.
Uno only did a triple salchow/double toe loop combination jump instead of his planned quad salchow/triple toe loop to “Four Seasons” and that left him trailing 7.68 points behind Chen.
The 20-year-old said his scaled-back short program felt “a little easy” and is aiming to complete his full routine, including four quad jumps, in Saturday’s free skate.
“I won’t give up on my original routine until the very end,” he said.
Kazuaki Tomono and Keiji Tanaka, completed the short program in 11th and 14th place, respectively, with scores of 82.61 and 80.17.
Savchenko, Massot win again
Olympic champions Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot capped a golden season when they smashed the world record to claim the pairs gold.
The German duo produced a stunning free skate to “La Terre vue du ciel” by Armand Amar to better their gold medal-winning performance in Pyeongchang with a new world record score of 162.86 points in the free skate.
“It was hard, but it was magical,” said an emotional Massot who dropped to his knees to kiss the ice along with his partner after their performance.
“Physically we were tired, we didn’t have much of preparation, and so we really did it thanks to mental strength, with our hearts.”
They also achieved a new world record overall score of 245.84 points for their first title together after teaming up in October 2014.
“At the end, I kissed the ice and thanked the ice,” Savchenko said.
Two-time European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia moved up from bronze last year to take silver, over 20 points behind.
Savchenko, 24, and French-born Massot, 29, were the only Olympic pairs medalists to compete in worlds.
“Thinking about family who could not be at the Olympics was very motivating to skate here,” said Savchenko, who claimed her sixth world title having won five with previous partner Robin Szolkowy.
“That is why we gave all our energy we had inside, that is why it was so emotional.”
The Ukrainian-born skater matches Norwegian legend Sonja Henie for the women’s record of 11 world championships medals.
The pair were buoyed by the crowed who gave them a standing ovation and they watched in amazement as their scores came up including 21 perfect 10.00s.
France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres claimed their first podium as she battled back after a fall on a throw triple salchow in her skate to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” They scored 218.36.
“I got the wind knocked out of me but I’ve learned that a mistake can’t win or lose a competition it’s what you do next that is important,” said James.
“We’ve always dreamed of this podium,” added Canadian-born James who teamed up with Cipres in 2010. “It has been a bumpy and totally amazing journey with Morgan.”