Ten, whose family is part of a large Korean population in Kazakhstan, has been battling injuries all season. Surprised by finishing second Wednesday in the short program, with little confidence in a free skate that had been a constant struggle, he adopted a nothing-to-lose attitude by imagining he already had.
"(I thought,) imagine you already lost and you need to skate with freedom," Ten said. "That was my mental strength. I am glad I could skate with power. I didn't sleep well these last two nights. I was too nervous. I never thought I would finish the season this way."
Ten, seventh at worlds last year, bettered his previous personal best for overall score by nearly 40 points and for the free skate by more than 20. It was a remarkable performance for someone who never finished higher than fifth in eight senior Grand Prix appearances and was 12th at the Four Continents Championship last month.
His whole journey is remarkable. Starting on outdoor rinks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, then moving to Russia for better training conditions and coaching, finally winding up in Los Angeles with Carroll, who coached Evan Lysacek to the 2010 Olympic gold.
"When I started skating in Kazakhstan, we only had open rinks and could only skate in the winter," Ten said. "We had a very cold winter, (so) I remember my mother putting three pairs of pants on me, and I looked like a cabbage.
"And that's how I learned all the doubles, it helped me to be quicker. Then I would train in shopping malls, at a small rink. We had an exhibition every Friday for all the shopaholics.
"I took a long way from skating like a cabbage to skating here at worlds."