At stake at many of the national figure skating championships are berths for the junior, as well as the senior, world championships.
I am a big fan of junior worlds. We frequently get a first look at who will become the next generation of figure skating superstars.
Skaters like Japan's Mao Asada and Yuzuru Hanyu, China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, American Johnny Weir, Russian Evgeni Plushenko and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, among so many other stars, have all won junior world titles.
With few exceptions, this year's junior event is a brand new ball game for newcomers looking to find a spot on the podium.
Canada has historically done very well at the junior world championships with a total of 32 medals, including three men's titles, a women's crown, three pairs gold medals, and one ice dance championship since the inaugural event in 1976.
This season's ISU competition is taking place in Milan, Italy with 184 skaters from 42 countries. As is the case with the other ISU championships, all of the skaters had to meet a minimum technical score requirement in their short and free programs in order to qualify for junior worlds.
As much as anything, the competitors and the results from the junior Grand Prix Final play into my evaluation of the field.
Men's field features talented Americans
In the men's event Americans Joshua Farris and Jason Brown finished on last year's podium in second and third, respectively, and continued to impress over the course of this season.
Both skaters made it to the junior Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia in December, with Farris taking the silver and Brown finishing fourth.
They seem to be the strongest contenders for Milan but keep your eyes on Japanese skater Ryuju Hino, who took the bronze at the junior Grand Prix.
The ISU preview named Canada`s Nam Nguyen, who finished in 13th at last year`s junior worlds, as one of the skaters to watch, and with the improvement that I saw at the Canadians in January, I would tend to agree.
Tough competition in ice dance
As far as ice dance is concerned, Russia's Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won this year's junior Grand Prix Final and were the 2012 world junior silver medallists.
The junior Grand Prix Final silver medallists from France, Gabriella Papadakis and Guilleaume Cizeron, and 2012 junior world bronze medallists from the United States Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton, will probably be their biggest challengers.
That said, Canada's junior champions Madeleine Edwards and Zhao Kai Pang, and national junior silver medallists Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen, should be able to hold their own in a tough field.
Canada's strong pairs contingent
Canada`s three entries in the pair`s event speaks to the strength of the young teams in this country. Margaret Purdy and Michael Marinaro lead the way for the Canadians by virtue of a fifth-place finish at last year`s junior worlds and qualifying this season for the junior Grand Prix Final.
Russia`s lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin won this year`s junior Grand Prix Final, making them the strongest contenders in this field.
There is no doubt that China is looking to continue its legacy of strong pairs. Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin finished as silver medallists on last year`s junior world podium and are aiming for the top spot.
Women offer most intriguing discipline
The most interesting of the four disciplines for me is the women`s event. Russia`s Julia Lipnitskaia is looking for a back-to-back titles; something that has never been achieved by anyone in the women`s field. Lipnitskaia is part of the very successful wave of young Russian women who seem to have arrived all of a sudden.
Joining Lipnitsksaia are teammates Elena Radionova, who won the junior Grand Prix title, and Anna Pogorilaya, who took the bronze.
I am anxious to see how Canada`s Gabrielle Daleman and Alaine Chartrand will fare in this event. They knocked our collective socks off at Canadians where Daleman took the silver and Chartrand the bronze, and seem to be able to deliver strong performances under pressure.
This is the first trip to junior worlds for both skaters.
Men: Joshua Farris (USA)
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Women: Julia Lipnitskaia (Rus)
Dance: Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin (Rus)
Pairs: Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin (Rus)