Competition was fierce among the world's top figure skaters in the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, not only for medals but also for a chance to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
In the women's singles, Korea, Japan and the U.S. each gained three tickets for Sochi. Olympic champion Kim Yu-na was solely responsible for securing three tickets for Korea by winning the worlds, whereas Japan and the U.S. had a number of talented skaters to win Olympic slots.
The three Olympic tickets Kim secured for Korea are the most ever for the country. But her compatriots who will compete in Sochi are still nowhere near as good as their international rivals.
Park So-youn and Kim Hae-jin, both 16, are at best rising stars and only have Junior Grand Prix victories under their belts. Park ranks 63rd in the world with an ISU-accredited top score of 144.77 points. Kim is ranked 51st with a top score of 149.71, but she is currently in a slump due to injuries to her ankle and knee.
Park finished 12th (135.42 points) at the Junior World Figure Skating Championships early this month, while Kim finished 19th (115.22).
Japan, however, fielded three figure skaters in the women's singles in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and will have three compete in Sochi next year, as Mao Asada, who won the silver medal at Vancouver, came third with 196.47 points and newcomer Kanako Murakami ranked fourth with a personal best score of 189.73 at the worlds. Murakami's world ranking has now risen to seventh.
The U.S.' Ashley Wagner came in fifth place with 187.34 points and Gracie Gold sixth with 184.34 to win their country three Olympic tickets. Gold (18) drew applause for the quality of her jumps and crisp landings. Although they did not shine as brightly as they could have due to the pressure of competing in the worlds for the first time, they proved their potential.
Li Zijun of China came seventh with 183.85 points, making a lasting impression around the world. In the free skating, she earned a technical score of 69.41 points, right below Kim Yu-na at 74.73.
Kim said she is happy to be able to give other Korean figure skaters a chance to compete in the Winter Olympics, but pointed out that they lack experience competing in major international competitions.
No male Korean figure skater has ever won a ticket to the Olympics. Kim Jin-seo (17) came 26th place in this year's World Championships, just missing an Olympic ticket, since the cut line was 24th.
Male Korean figure skaters must now place no lower than sixth in the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September if they want to win an Olympic ticket. Thirty male and female skaters each compete in the Winter Games.