Kim Yu-Na has lost just one competition in the last two seasons. ((Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images))

Turns out, Olympic champion Kim Yu-na isn't so unique.

Kim returned home from her majestic performance at the Vancouver Olympics and, for the first time, found it hard to get motivated. She didn't want to go to practice and she didn't want to work — even with the world figure skating championships in Turin, Italy, just a few weeks away.

"I've been there. After Calgary, I had to go through the same thing," said Brian Orser, Kim's coach and the Olympic silver medallist in 1984 and '88.

"Whether you win or lose, it's hard. You've won the biggest prize in the history of the sport. And then, if you haven't won, you're defeated and you have the 'why bother' attitude.

"All the athletes have that," he added. "And I told Yu-na that: 'You're not special.' "

Orser says this with a chuckle, of course. But the world championships after an Olympics are always a tough assignment for the best skaters.

The Olympics are the pinnacle, and skaters devote their entire lives to those two weeks. They're exhausted and drained when the games finish, and the last thing most want to do is get right back on the ice and resume training. With the world championships beginning less than a month after the games end, it's often a bigger surprise when the top names do show up.

The Vancouver Games weren't even over before men's champion Evan Lysacek announced he wouldn't be defending his world title. Evgeni Plushenko, the silver medallist in Vancouver and a three-time world champ, isn't going, either.

Women's bronze medallist Joannie Rochette is taking a much-needed break after her mother's sudden death.

Pairs champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbao are skipping worlds, as are Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, the bronze medallists in ice dance and reigning world champions. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who finished second to the Russians at last year's worlds, are taking a pass, too.

Worlds begin Tuesday with the compulsories in ice dance (Bold,, 7 a.m. ET).


"It's really hard," Orser said. "[Kim] didn't realize it would be that hard. I told her just take the time. You'll know when you're ready. You'll know when it's time and you'll be fine. And she's fine now. She's been doing clean longs and clean shorts and getting in that competitive mindset."

Which is bad news for the rest of the women.

Kim has lost just once in the last two seasons, and her performance in Vancouver was so dominant and so memorable that some have said it was the best in history. Considering Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill and Katarina Witt are all Olympic champions, that's saying something.

Mao Asada will likely do three triple axels — one in the short, two in the long. But as Kim showed in Vancouver, when she's on, she's unstoppable.

"I can't imagine any other placement than winning because of the condition she's in," Orser said. "She knows how to turn it on and turn it up. Right now we're at a medium simmer. But we're going to turn up the heat. I just know that when we get to Turin and get to that space, she'll turn it up."

Virtue, Moir go for ice dance gold

For the men, it will be a much bigger battle.

Daisuke Takahashi is the only Vancouver medallist going to Turin.

But he still has to contend with Patrick Chan, who won the silver medal at last year's worlds and feels like he has something to prove after finishing fifth in Vancouver; Japanese teammates Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka; two-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott; and 2007 world champ Brian Joubert, who certainly doesn't want his disastrous showing in Vancouver to be the lingering memory from this year.

"Definitely the gold medal, for sure. After winning the silver last year, there's no reason why I shouldn't be striving for the gold medal," Chan said. "I definitely see this as a continuation for next season, showing everyone that my time is going to come. It didn't happen in Vancouver, but it's sure going to come in the next four years."

Pairs silver medallists Pang Qing and Tong Jian are hoping to add another world title to the one they claimed in 2006 — the last post-Olympic worlds. Their biggest competition should come from two-time defending world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, who were third in Vancouver.

Ice dance was one of the best competitions in Vancouver, with gold medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and runners-up Meryl Davis and Charlie White showing it's no longer the stuffy, staid — boring — discipline that for years was the butt of jokes.

"We're drastically different from not only the dance teams of the past but American dance teams of the past," Davis said. "To have the success we've had this year while maintaining our sense of self and embracing our own style is really special."

Virtue and Moir and Davis and White train together, and the Americans were genuinely happy for their Canadian friends' victory in Vancouver. But worlds is a new competition, and Davis and White would like nothing more than to end the season with a gold medal of their own.

"It's certainly something we want to accomplish," White said. "Part of the reason we haven't let down is it's such a big goal of ours to win that world title."