Despite entering the March 28 men's free program at the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, Japan trailing not just one but two other skaters, home crowd favorite Yuzuru Hanyu delivered a glittering long skate to claim his first-ever world title. Coming just a month after he bested Canadian Patrick Chan to take Olympic gold in Sochi, the win cemented the 19-year old phenom's status as one of the world's most formidable male skaters.
Hanyu's final score of 282.59 was good enough to give him the gold over his countryman Tatsuki Machida by a minuscule .33 point. Javier Fernandez of Spain took the bronze medal, while Russia's Maxim Kovtun, who was denied a spot on the 2014 Olympic team after the popular Evgeni Plushenko insisted he be allowed to compete, placed fourth. Neither 2013 world champion Chan nor Sochi bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan competed.
The two athletes representing the United States had a good showing, with two-time Olympian and reigning national champion Jeremy Abbott, 28, placing fifth in his last competition ever and former U.S. champ Max Aaron placing eighth. Their collaborative effort successfully earned the nation three berths at the 2015 worlds in Shanghai, China. The U.S. last sent three men to compete in 2011.
The 2014 World Figure Skating Championships conclude March 29 with the ladies and ice dance free programs.