Two years before the Olympics is big for everyone. I do find her lack of consistency an issue though. Most skaters don't retire though now as the Olympics are so close.
I watched Worlds in Nice live and I have to admit she was "skating small", however beautiful she was.
But a video clip like this gives me hope
(Mao practicing 3axel and 3flip/3loop at 4CC last year)
And a very interesting interview with the Satos by a JSF official Ms Shirota on Mao
The Satos really hesitated taking such a big star. Shirota feels her skating got a lot better, albeit being still slow. They say, "only recently has she started to really listening to us (lol)". They're thinking a 3-year span. Mao didn't use to be interested in other skaters, but now she watches the men practice, absorbing a lot. She once asked Mr Sato why a certain skater didn't try a quad in short, and he explained the maths. In that competition she decided not to go for the 3axel after that conversation, symptomatic to her "changes".
Then they talk heart-warmingly about her mother, Mao's immense strength, the media, how "special" (implying that they're unusual and a bit eccentric) stars like Mao and Miki are, how they sometimes worry if they can really handle a big thing like Mao yet they're committed to devote everything they've got to her, etc.
There is a series of really interesting interviews by Ms Shirota if anyone's interested!
That sounds like wonderful insights from the Satos. I retain my high hopes for Mao. Someone that splendid doesn't just fade away.