ASSAGO, Italy (AP) — Olympic figure skating champions Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany set a world record as they claimed their first world title as a pair with a flawless program packed with daring and grace on Thursday.

The silver went to Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia skating fast, even if at times faltering, in eye-popping yellow polka dots to Christina Aguilera's "Candyman," and the bronze to Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France, who kept their nerves and nailed the rest of their program after she fell badly on an early triple throw.

Massot's mouth fell open as the free program score was read out: 162.86 points, topping their own world record at the Olympics just a month ago of 159.81 and more than 18 points ahead of the second-placed Russians. Their total score, 245.84, also set a record.

"It was exactly the season we wanted," Massot said.

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A former French skater, Massot teamed with Savchenko in 2014 after her former partner, Robyn Szolkowy, retired after their fifth world title together.

"'I realized today the crazy work I had to do over these four years," Massot said. "It was hard work for her to bring me to her level. And hard work for me to come to her level."

The Germans' mastery came through as Massot lifted Savchenko with just one arm, with super-high triple-twist lifts and jump combinations that earned them execution bonuses, and inventive moves like gliding across the ice with their inclined bodies forming an X.

Their musical choice suggested the height of their jumps and throws: "La Terre vue du ciel," or "Earth viewed from heaven," by the French-Moroccan composer Armand Amar. Savchenko-Massot opened with a sky-high triple-twist, followed with a throw triple flip, and a triple-double-double jump. The momentum continued through the final move, with Massot holding Savchenko aloft head-down, before spinning her gently up and down for the dramatic release. Both kissed the ice.

Savchenko said the emotional release at the end of the worlds was greater than at the Olympics because friends and family who couldn't be in South Korea were with them in Italy. "It was for us a motivation to be here. We gave all the energy. We skated with heart," she said.

French pair James and Cipres added the throw triple salchow that nearly tripped them up just last week. James said she was having trouble recalibrating to the triple from quads. Her blade failed to grab the ice as she landed and she fell flat, sending a gasp through the crowd.

"I got the wind knocked out of me," she said, adding that over the last year "I learned that a mistake can't win or lose a competition but what you do next is what can change everything. ... At that moment I forgot the pain, Morgan was asking me if I was OK, and I didn't even reply. I was like, 'I need to go into my next thing.'"

Tarasova and Morozov earned 144.24 with their routine, as he faltered on a couple of jumps.

Nathan Chen of the U.S. neatly vanquished ghosts of the Olympic short program to finish first going into the men's final free.

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 his Olympic performance to place third.

After bombing the short in South Korea, Chen wanted to redeem himself at the worlds.

"Ultimately, I am proud of what I did," Chen said.

The U.S. champion 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.

Two favorites, Olympic silver medalist Shomo Uno of Japan and Jin Boyang of China, skated error-prone programs and 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 final free on Saturday.

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Daniella Matar contributed to this report.