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Five things to watch for at worlds: Lively ladies

Will Wagner pull out a triple-triple? Will layoff from elite competition affect Kim?

If Yu-Na Kim is on her game in London, she will be hard to beat.
If Yu-Na Kim is on her game in London, she will be hard to beat. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(03/12/2013) - As the start of the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships fast approaches, icenetwork.com runs down some of the storylines we'll be following in London, Ontario. Here, we break down the ladies event.

The ladies event will have plenty of drama, as 2010 Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim will be making her return to the world championships after sitting out the 2011-12 season. Also vying for the crown will be Carolina Kostner of Italy, the defending world champion and reigning European champion, and Japan's Mao Asada, a two-time world titlist who often lives and dies with her triple Axel.

1. Will the Americans be able to secure three spots for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi?

It's not going to be easy, but the United States is sending to London the skaters with the best shot at achieving this. Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold need to finish with placements that total 13 or fewer to earn the United States three spots at next year's Olympic Games. Wagner knows firsthand the importance of this, since she placed third at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and missed a chance to compete at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Wagner, who captured her second national title in a row last month, finished fourth at worlds a year ago and feels a sense of responsibility to get a third spot. Gold, making her worlds debut, needs a good showing in the short program to help make this happen.

2. Speaking of Wagner, will she unveil a triple-triple in London?

She has a triple flip-triple toe planned for the short program and said late last month that she plans on unveiling it in London. She played it safe at nationals, landing a triple flip-double toe in the short. In her free, she landed a triple flip-double toe-double toe and a double Axel-double toe. She knows there are plenty of women who will be trying the triple-triple in London, and if she wants to finish on the podium, she probably needs to try one. Gold, meanwhile, is switching things up from nationals and is now doing a triple Lutz-triple toe instead of a triple flip-triple toe because she has received edge calls on the flip.

3. The Russian women have made strides in the ladies competition since Vancouver, and the next Games will be in Russia. How are they looking with less than a year to go?

The Russians are sending an interesting trio of women to worlds. Alena Leonova is the reigning world silver medalist, but she has struggled this season, placing sixth and seventh at her two Grand Prix events and a disappointing seventh at Russian nationals. The team also features two 16-year-olds making their worlds debuts: Adelina Sotnikova and Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, who finished second and third at the 2013 European Championships. Tuktamisheva is the reigning Russian champion, and she won the free skate portion at Europeans.

4. Kim is back at worlds after taking a year off from competition. She last won worlds in 2009. Can she win the world crown again in Canada?

Her last major competition in Canada, of course, was the 2010 Olympics, where she won the gold medal in captivating fashion. She took the silver medal at the world championships in 2010 and 2011, and then did not return to the competitive arena until the 2012 NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany, in December. Queen Yu-Na showed she still has strong command of the ice, landing a triple Lutz-triple toe en route to the crown. If she skates at her best, she will be tough to dethrone.

5. Kostner is the defending world champion and is coming off a European championship. Can she defend her title?

Last summer, Kostner reportedly considered retiring. Bet she's glad she didn't go through with that plan. She did take a breather, withdrawing from two Grand Prix events, but has been strong ever since, claiming her seventh Italian title and then winning her fifth European crown. With so much focus on Kim and Asada, Kostner could be the underdog as defending champion.