2018 Worlds preview (ladies): Zagitova the solid favorite

Without teammate and main rival Evgenia Medvedeva here in Milano, Olympic champion Alina Zagitova looks to have a clear path to a remarkable undefeated debut season. The intrigue comes with the other two spots on the podium, which have the potential to go to a number of other skaters at this event. The question, then, is what are the underrotation calls going to be like? That may make a huge difference in where these skaters place this week.

Worlds predictions
Official hashtags: #WorldFigure #Milano2018

GOLD Alina Zagitova RUS - With the Olympic gold in hand, Zagitova comes in as the solid favorite for her first World title. It's never a guarantee, especially when you have some of the most difficult technical content in the competition, but given how she's handled her first senior season over and over again over the past six months, it's tough to see her not sailing away with the title. That said, establishing that short program lead will be important for her - we saw in PyeongChang that she doesn't necessarily have that much leeway for error, especially with the Olympic bronze medalist in the equation.

SILVER Kaetlyn Osmond CAN - There's no one with as big of a chance to upset the Olympic champion in Milano as Osmond - she has both the jumps and the components to be able to challenge. And what she has coming into Worlds is momentum. It's not just her belief in her ability to deliver at the biggest moments, but it's also the fact that her components are on the rise, and appropriately so. Her short program score - if she's clean - will tell the story about just how close she will be to Zagitova.

BRONZE Satoko Miyahara JPN - Just off the podium in PyeongChang, Miyahara has continued to build strength in her jumps and in her consistency this season. The huge test for her this week will be full rotations. If she is able to consistently jump the way that she is capable of, she has a great shot at returning to the podium.

4. Carolina Kostner ITA - If Kostner puts it all together here at Worlds in her home country, the crowd will lose its mind and Kostner herself will earn her first World medal since 2014. But that's a big if, especially given her track record this season. She hasn't figured out a way to skate a clean competition with her upgraded technical content, and she may be coming into Milano with even more difficulty in her free skate. And it's the stamina in her free skate that will be the most challenging for her.

5. Wakaba Higuchi JPN - With a disappointing fourth at Japan Nationals, Higuchi was not selected for the Olympic team but got Worlds as a result of some great performances in the Challengers and Grand Prix events early in the season. She was most recently at Challenge Cup in the lead-up to Worlds and was strong but not spectacular. But her best competition this season was in Italy, so perhaps that will be a good mental boost for her this week.

6. Bradie Tennell USA - The U.S. champ was not particularly herself at the Olympics, making mistakes on things that she had been so consistent on in practice. The World Championships is a new day, and without the craziness of the Olympics, this may be the place where she can find her consistency once again.

7. Mirai Nagasu USA - To triple axel or not to triple axel? Nagasu made history at the Olympics by becoming the third woman ever to land a triple axel at the Olympics, but that was in the Team Event. Her individual event left her wanting to prove herself all over again. If she can figure it out with two clean programs here with that triple axel, she's potentially even got a shot at the podium. 

8. Gabrielle Daleman CAN - If there's anyone looking for redemption from the Olympics, it's Daleman. Coming in as the World bronze medalist, she had a complete disaster in the free skate and dropped to 15th. How much has that experience messed with her confidence? We've seen before that she's a fighter, and she can certainly get back into that top group again if she can rediscover her form here.

9. Maria Sotskova RUS - Eighth at the Olympics, Sotskova was inconsistent in PyeongChang, and surprisingly so considering how solid she has been for the past couple of seasons. It may not bode well for her chances here in Milano, but she is top five material if she can put it all together.

10. Mariah Bell USA - In a lot of ways, Bell could be the one who could sneak in and surprise everyone this week. She's been off the radar since Four Continents, but has kept up her training with a solid possibility of heading to Worlds as the 2nd alternate (training mate and 1st alternate Ashley Wagner told her that she wouldn't go to Worlds). Without the hubbub of the Olympics, she may be the most prepared of any of the American women here.