Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na left for Ontario, Canada, on Sunday to compete at the 2013 World Championships starting Friday. This time around, she will aim for first place at the event, where she came in second back in 2011 before taking a leave from competition.
The Worlds will offer an important snapshot of athlete standings before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, after which Kim said she will retire for good.
In her first international competition since her comeback, Kim won the NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany, in December last year with 201.61 points and then the Korean nationals in early January with 210.77 points. She missed her graduation ceremony at Korea University to concentrate on rigorous training for the World Championships.
Kim will face two types of competitors. First, there are veteran skaters and familiar faces like Japan's Mao Asada and Italy's Carolina Kostner. Since winning the 2010 World Championships and a silver medal at the 2010 Olympics, Asada's performance declined for two years. But this season, she swept two International Skating Union Grand Prix events, the Grand Prix Final and the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships (4CC). At the 4CC last month, she successfully executed a difficult triple axel jump for the first time in two years.
Kostner is also a force to be reckoned with. After winning the 2012 Worlds title, she considered retirement but came back to competitive skating at the end of last year. She won the European Championships in January.
A second group is made up of younger skaters such as Ashley Wagner of the United States and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia who lack major titles but have top skills.
Kim is the only Korean female skater to compete at this year's Worlds, and her performance will determine how many skaters Korea can send to the Olympics next year. If Kim finishes in top two, Korea will have three guaranteed spots, and a top-10 finish will yield two.
"My goal is to secure two places at the Olympics at least, and if I can grab three, that would be even better," she said. "I'd like to create opportunities for younger Korean skaters to compete at the Olympics."
"I've had two competitions since my comeback, and I'm not worried as I didn't have major mistakes," she added. "I think I can do well at the Worlds if everything goes smoothly."
The ladies' short program will take place on Friday and the free skate on Sunday.