2018 Worlds preview (men): Three battling for first World title

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The three men who won the past seven World titles will not be in Milano this week - Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez, and Patrick Chan have all opted out of Worlds, and so for the first time in a long time, we will have a first-time World champion in the men's event. But the battle will still be intense - with three skaters favored to fight for that gold medal. But if the Olympics taught us anything, it's that men's skating is just a tad unpredictable. And there are at least three other skaters outside those three favorites who have medal possibilities.

Worlds predictions
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GOLD Nathan Chen USA - Undefeated before the Olympics, Chen took a tumble in PyeongChang and didn't rediscover his old self until a brilliant free skate that vaulted him from 17th to 5th. That free skate was potentially career-redefining - it was conceivable that another poor performance could have been a major setback for his career. So now that he remembers how to deliver again, is this week in Milano the cap of the comeback of comebacks? Can he, like Mao Asada did in 2014, turn a poor short program at the Olympics into redemption in the free skate and then a World title? Watch for that very first jump in his short - it will set the tone for the rest of his World Championships.

SILVER Shoma Uno JPN - There was nothing easy about this prediction between first and second at all. Uno has as good of a chance to win this title as anyone, but with him, the question is always how well he can translate his mental strength into competition. He has always noted that he doesn't necessarily practice all that well, so it's a matter of him willing those jumps to fruition when it counts most. And hey, being the Olympic silver medalist doesn't hurt either.

BRONZE Boyang Jin CHN - Less than eight points from the Olympic podium, Jin did almost everything he could to get that medal. But he's the two-time and reigning World bronze medalist for a reason - he's been able to deliver at Worlds when others haven't. His short program is his strength this season; it's an all-around program that hasn't gotten the appreciation that it should have. 

4. Vincent Zhou USA - Was Zhou's sixth at the Olympics a surprise? Not if you look at what he's capable of delivering. Of all the outsiders here this week in Milan, Zhou has perhaps the best shot at pulling off the upset due to his technical content and the consistency he's shown in the past few months. Where he will trail is in the short program, but his free skate has such a high ceiling in technical content that he can make a comeback even if he's outside the top six after the short.

5. Dmitri Aliev RUS - One of the big surprises at the Olympics was Aliev's magnificent short program, which put him in fifth and in the final group in the free skate. He had been laying low in the weeks and days leading up to the Olympics, only to get on Olympic ice for practice just the day before the competition started. And that could've kept him from realizing the awe of the moment in the short program. His free skate was unfortunately a mess, but look for him to have taken that experience and built on it for his first Worlds this week.

6. Mikhail Kolyada RUS - Where is Kolyada this week? He could fit in really anywhere from the top of the podium to outside the top 10. Of everyone here, he's perhaps the toughest to predict. It's a question of whether or not he has left PyeongChang behind him as he approaches a competition where he should very much be one of the podium favorites.

7. Alexei Bychenko ISR - What an Olympics for Bychenko, particularly in the Team Event, where he outperformed expectations and looked like he was having the most fun of anyone out there. He has a great shot at returning to the top 10 here, and could very well place as high as he ever has at Worlds.

8. Keegan Messing CAN - Speaking of career bests, Messing went from outsider for the Canadian Olympic team at the beginning of the season to a top 12 finish at his first Olympics. He didn't deliver to the best of his ability in PyeongChang, but the revelation was the international panel's appreciation of his skating and his performances. Those component marks will be key for him to notch a top 10 finish in his first Worlds this week.

9. Misha Ge UZB - The Olympics weren't quite what Ge had envisioned. After a very strong season leading up to PyeongChang, he made errors in jumps that were surprising to many, and probably to himself as well. In what is likely his final Worlds and final competition, Ge will be looking to climb back into the top 10 for the first time since 2015.

10. Max Aaron USA - You thought he had his goodbye at Four Continents two months ago, where he finished fifth with a couple of very strong skates. But after Adam Rippon withdrew, and neither Jason Brown nor Ross Miner took their alternate spots, Aaron is back this week in his fourth Worlds. He has zero pressure on his shoulders, and when that's the case, that's when he is at his best. The question is how much training has he been able to pack in over the past few weeks?