Well, let's not kid ourselves. I am going to go along with pretty much everyone else in the world and assume that the ladies world championship will be won by either Korea's Yu-na Kim or Japan's Mao Asada. But it's worth taking a look at the field anyway:
Japan's Mao Asada: Asada is the reigning world champion. She's a beautiful skater but will always be known for her amazing technical ability. She is expected to attempt two triple axels in her long program, which is just ridiculous. She landed two at the Grand Prix Final and won the competition. She had a terrible opening to the season at Trophee Eric Bompard but she still managed to come in second. Although she beat out rival Kim for the GPF, she placed sixth in the short program at Four Continents and ended the competition in third place.
South Korea's Yu-na Kim: She is a bit more of the complete package than Asada. She's got the jumps (no triple axel, but she usually doesn't need one) and the difficult moves. She's got the fan following. And she's less likely to implode than Asada. She had some trouble handling the pressure as the hometown favorite at the GPF, which took place in South Korea. But she rebounded to win the Four Continents. She builds up incredible leads in the short program and can usually hold on despite not always winning the free skate.
Canada's Joannie Rochette: I recently read an article about Rochette's decision that the triple/triple is too risky. She hasn't been doing too bad without it. Rochette is captivating and can draw the crowd into her performances. Still, not quite sure if her technical difficulty level is high enough to compete with Asada and Kim if both are clean. If not, though, Rochette has done very well in skating through the openings left by Asada so far this season. She won two Grand Prix events, and recently beat Asada to win silver at Four Continents.
Italy's Carolina Kostner: She scores well with the judges, although she hasn't had a great season. She was second in the world last year and European champion, but she started the Grand Prix season with a fourth place finish at Skate Canada. She rebounded to win Cup of Russia, but placed third in the GPF and was edged out at this year's European championships. She is another one I don't see winning unless Asada and Kim falter. But she is definitely capable of getting on the podium again.
These are the only ladies I can see being at or near the top of the podium. But I may be surprised by: Japan's Fumie Suguri, who has looked good this year but has no wins to her name; Laura Lepisto of Finland, who won the European championships, former world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who has been downgraded on jumps like there's no tomorrow. There are a few other wild cards but not sure if I see anyone else medalling.
As for the Americans, Champion Alissa Czisny is one of the most beautiful skaters in the world, but she is unlikely to land enough triple jumps to secure a spot on the podium, and Rachael Flatt just doesn't have the maturity or showmanship at this point for me to think she's going to be up there. But she does have the jumps and the consistency...usually. I think both should be in the top ten but I don't know if they're going to be able to snag three Olympic berths. Remember, in order for the United States to send three ladies to the Olympics, Flatt and Czisny's placements have to add up to no more than 13.