One month after he was expected to win an Olympic gold medal and instead placed fifth, Nathan Chen is finally taking home gold. He had a nearly perfect free skate Saturday to run away with the men’s figure skating world title in Milan.
The 18-year-old from Salt Lake City, Utah, led after the short program and executed six quads with just a small mistake on his quad salchow to score personal bests of 219.46 and 321.40. His total was 47.63 points ahead of the rest of the field, many of whom struggled with multiple falls on day two, with Shoma Uno of Japan winning silver with a total of 273.77 and Mikhail Kolyada of Russia taking the bronze with 273.32.
His margin of victory was the greatest at a world championships, Olympic Winter Games or Grand Prix Final under this points system.
Chen is the first U.S. men’s world champion since Evan Lysacek in 2009 and the 10th in history. He took the gold in just his second appearance at the world championships after placing sixth last year. Chen is the youngest champion since Evgeni Plushenko in 2001.
Chen entered his first Olympics undefeated this season and figured to take home gold there, but a disappointing short program put him in 17th for the time being. The highest scoring free skate of the competition would bring him up to fifth, but even that was not enough for a medal.
“I’m so happy about this, especially having not the greatest skates at the Olympics and then being able to come not long after and do what I did here,” Chen said, according to U.S. Figure Skating.
Max Aaron, who replaced Adam Rippon on the team, also came through with a big free skate and finished in 11th overall with a score of 241.49 after sitting in 15th after the short. That placement means the U.S. will send three men to the world championships next year.
Vincent Zhou, 17, who was in third place after the short program, was one of the many skaters who struggled with his free skate, falling three times and making mistakes on most of his jumps, and finished in 14th at his senior worlds debut after placing sixth at the Olympics.