A year has proven to be plenty of time to turn the ladies' figure skating field upside down. And that's been a good thing. Coming in to next week's 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, the lineup in the ladies' event is likely the most exciting one since Vancouver three years ago. Let me count the ways.
Schedule: Universal Sports/CBC/Eurosport
No doubt, the biggest headline coming in is the return of Olympic champion Yuna Kim, whose last appearance at Worlds was in 2011. She made her comeback at NRW Trophy last December and then won Korean Nationals. But next week will be the first time she is facing stiff competition. Some have predicted a walk in the park for Kim, while others think otherwise.
Kim's comeback plans have certainly lit a fire under the ladies' field. And it's interesting to note that she's coming back to an arguably stronger field than the one she faced in Vancouver. Chief among her competition is Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada, who re-unveiled her triple axel at Four Continents, along with plans for an eight-triple free skate. And then there is reigning World champ Carolina Kostner, who returned this season with a triple lutz and a triple flip-triple toe, two elements that have been out of her lineup for a while.
Was it only this time last year that we were lamenting the first ladies World champion to not compete a jump harder than a triple flip since Jill Trenary?
In addition to the veterans, there are going to be some very highly-anticipated debuts next week. Carrying the two-spots-in-Sochi hopes of Canada is their new star, Kaetlyn Osmond. Southward, last year's World junior silver medalist, Gracie Gold, is looking for a consistent competition at Worlds. China will be debuting Zijun Li, who has the most complete package of any of the Chinese ladies since Chen Lu.
And finally, next year's Olympic host will finally be bringing out two of the most talked-about young skaters - Adelina Sotnikova and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva are finally age-eligible for Worlds.
Let's add some more names while we're at it, shall we? Two-time U.S. champ Ashley Wagner had a terrific start to her season and hopes a couple of months have helped her regain the form that put her on the map. Defending silver medalist Alena Leonova fought off challengers to regain her spot on the Russian team, and defending bronze medalist Akiko Suzuki come in on the heels of a strong Four Continents showing. And that's not to forget Kanako Murakami and Valentina Marchei, both of whom are having their strongest seasons ever.
I'm out of breath.