MILAN: US teenager Nathan Chen credited his Olympic meltdown with maturing him as a skater as he grabbed the lead in the men's short programme at the world figure skating championships on Thursday (Mar 22).
The 18-year-old from Salt Lake City had gone into the Olympics among the favourites after winning the ISU Grand Prix final.
But nerves in his short programme in Pyeongchang saw him slump to 17th before pulling out a record six quad jumps in the free skating final to finish fifth.
"That much media attention got a bit in my head during the Games," conceded Chen of the hype although he took team bronze with the United States.
"I'm using what I learned in the Olympics here, basically to focus on everything I can control and not to let my mind wander.
"I hope to redeem myself."
Olympic gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu - the reigning world champion - has skipped worlds with an ankle injury, and there was another blow for Japan with title-hope Shoma Uno struggling in fifth after picking up an ankle injury in training.
Chen opened up a 1.86-point lead on Russia's Mikhail Kolyada as he bids to capture the Japanese star Hanyu's crown.
But Chen was not the only prodigy targeting a first world title with 17-year-old US teammate Vincent Zhou, third five points adrift of his countryman.
Despite a wobbly landing on his triple axel, Chen nailed all his elements earning 101.94 points for his routine to Benjamin Clementine's 'Nemesis'.
"It wasn't a perfect short programme but I'll take it," said Chen, who said he hoped "to try five quads" in Saturday's free skating final.
UNO INJURY BLOW
Kolyada was second best with 100.08 points followed by last year's world junior champion Zhou, who got a personal best 96.78.
"Age doesn't really matter to me," said Zhou, the youngest man in the competition, who finished sixth in the Olympics.
"I'm still going to skate two programmes as well as I can regardless of how old I am.
"Post-Olympics was definitely a mental and physical rollercoaster but I'm glad I handled it well and skated well here."
Kolyada simplified his programme to skate clean and it worked as he looks to put Russia back on the men's podium for the first time in seven years.
"Everything worked today," said the 22-year-old two-time European bronze medallist.
"I felt great and was in a fighting mood. I did what I could and I did it well."
In Hanyu's absence 20-year-old Uno was seen as favourite to move up from his silver medal last year after finishing runner-up at the Olympics.
But errors in his routine to Vivaldi's Four Seasons left him trailing 7.68 points behind Chen.
"Sadly I am injured so I made the jumps a little bit easier," said Uno who hurt his ankle in practise.
"I guess that's the sad part that I couldn't land the easy jumps. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going for the free programme."
The competition continues on Thursday with the pairs free skating final where Olympic champions Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany are bidding for their first world title together.
Savchenko - who won five world crowns with now-retired Robin Szolkowy - will be bidding to match Norwegian legend Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals.