The 2011 ISU World Figure Skating Championships looked at one point like it wouldn't happen as a result of devastation in Japan from an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in early March just before worlds were to have taken place in Tokyo.
It took two weeks to come up with a solution, and the worlds were pushed five weeks down the calendar and relocated to Moscow, with the competition starting this week.
The context is important because it may be significant come competition and result time.
The Japanese skaters have undoubtedly had to cope with pressure and stress beyond the rink in addition to trying to maintain their training focus. For the rest of the skating world coming to Moscow, there have been struggles, including ice time and scheduling issues, to name but two.
The real victory for the skaters coming to Moscow is having pushed through five weeks of additional training. An iAsk question answer from a fan likened it to finishing a marathon race only to find that the ribbon has been pushed back 10 kilometres.
There are some changes to the structure of this year's worlds starting with the introduction of the preliminary round. The skaters are divided into two groups: the first is direct entries group and these skaters will automatically compete in the short program where the preliminary round skaters will have to earn their spot.
This system is based on the number of entries and, at this event, the men, ladies and ice dancers. The top 12 skaters in men's and ladies will round out the 18 already qualified to skate the short program.
10 ice dance spots open
In ice dance, 10 spots are open to the top finishers who will be added to the 15 already qualified to skate the short dance. Skating the free programs will be 24 men and ladies, 16 pairs and 20 ice dance couples based on the standings after the short program.
Who will prevail? There are no clear-cut answers.
The men's event could go a number of different ways but given the fact there have been significant distractions in front-runner and defending world champion Daisuke Takahashi's home country, the edge in my mind goes to Canada's two-time and reigning world silver medallist Patrick Chan.
Both men are wonderfully skilled but based on Chan's addition of quad toes in both the short and free and on the strength of his Grand Prix Final win this season, he becomes the man to beat.
Frenchmen Florent Amodio, this year's European Champion, and 2007 world champion Brian Joubert - along with Grand Prix of Moscow Champion Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic - are also challenging for the podium.
The pairs event features closely matched rivals from China and Germany. Qing Pang and Jian Tong are the defending and two-time world champions and are facing off against Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, also two-time world champions.
Both teams have extraordinary technical ability but have shown some weakness this season: the Chinese team in overall performance which has seemed lackluster and the Germans with material that isn't everyone's cup of tea.
The spoiler in this event will be newly crowned Russian champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who each dissolved partnerships at the end of last season in order to skate together.
The ice dance event features a rematch of Olympic and world champions from Canada, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White, silver medalists at both Olympics and worlds a year ago.
Virtue and Moir have been sidelined for the season with the exception of the Four Continents Championships where they began the free dance in the lead but withdrew during the competition as a result of an injury to Virtue's quad muscle.
Also challenging for the podium are European champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat from France who were ranked fourth at last year's worlds.
The ladies event will not be without its own share of drama with the return to competition of Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim of Korea, who took the season off with the exception of appearing at the world championships.
Defending world champion Mao Asada has had an up-and-down season with a change to her jumping technique imposed by the legendary Nobuo Sato, her new coach. Asada has shown improvement with each outing, and her tenacity and willingness to expose her struggle publicly in competition, tells me that she has extraordinary resolve.
Also in the hunt is 2007 world champion Miki Ando of Japan, Grand Prix Final and American champion Alissa Czisny, European silver medallist Carolina Kostner of Italy and Canadian champion Cynthia Phaneuf.
Men: Patrick Chan, Canada
Pairs: Qing Pang and Jian Tong, China
Ice Dance: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada
Ladies: Mao Asada, Japan
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