Nathan Chen wasn't at the top of his game in the short program, but he more than made up for it Saturday to capture his third straight world championship.
The American put together one of the greatest free skates of his career, landing five quads to capture the men's championship at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships. Chen entered the day in third place, 8.13 points behind Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, but won by 29.11 points.
"I wouldn't necessarily say this was my best free program ever, but it's definitely one that I'll remember forever," Chen said, per Olympic Talk. "I was in a position where, in theory, I can come back, but realistically I know these guys are going to lay down [strong programs]."
Hanyu fell to third place after a disappointing free skate, while countryman Yuma Kagiyama slid into second. Kagiyama, a 17-year-old competing in his first world championships, could be a medalist at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Chen, who posted the highest free skate score in Olympic history in 2018 but finished fifth, is the favorite to capture gold.
"The fact I'm able to be here at this world championships after this unprecedented year, it's amazing. I'm elated right now," Chen said. "I just tried to really remind myself to enjoy being here. I don't know how many more world championships I'll get to be at. Doing that, I was able to be a lot more calm."
Hanyu, who won Olympic golds in 2014 and 2018 and world golds in 2014 and 2017, appears to be looking up at Chen as the world's best. His third-place finish Saturday was frustrating given his brilliant short program. He was fourth in the free skate.
Hanyu said that program was "very exhausting."