ASSAGO, Italy -- American Nathan Chen went some way to atoning for his dreadful Olympic short programs in Pyeongchang by leading after the world championships short program on Thursday.
Chen, 18, hit two quads, one in combination, but the landings were a little off and he was marked slightly down. Still, the 101.94 score was a huge improvement on the 82.27 at the Olympics, though still shy of his personal best.
"I definitely feel pretty great, especially after having two rough short programs in the Olympics," he said. "Being able to come back here and skate like I did, it's redemptive."
Chen was the best American hope for figure skating gold at the Winter Games last month, but he struggled to cope with the pressure and the demands for his time.
He showed his mettle in the free skate, rallying to finish fifth after a historic performance in which he landed an unprecedented six quadruple jumps, plus helped the U.S. to a team bronze.
He said he learned from his mistakes and is more focused at the worlds, which do not feature Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu.
Elaborating on the biggest lessons, Chen said: "Mostly, it's just where to place my head before the competition, what to think about during the program. Make sure that my mind doesn't wander, just basically focus on everything that I can control."
After pulling off six quads for the highest-scoring free skate ever at the Olympics, Chen said he has a blueprint for his free skate at the worlds.
"That's the smartest approach," he said.
Mikhail Kolyada of Russia was second with a program he simplified after the Pyeongchang Games. Vincent Zhou of the U.S. was one of the few skaters to improve on his Olympic performance to place third.
Two favorites, Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and Jin Boyang of China, skated error-prone programs but remained within striking distance of the podium.
Uno, the only male Olympic medalist at the worlds, missed a triple-triple combo, tacking on a double after a step out. He finished in fifth despite a huge quad and triple axel. Jin nearly landed on the boards after an under-rotated quad, finishing in fourth going into the free skate on Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.