Great comments on this thread. Very informative! I love how the Mao supporters have explained in such detail the considerable strengths Mao still brings to her skating, especially the difficulty of her transitions and choreography.
Right now, at this moment, I feel like Kim and Kostner are co-favorites for Worlds. Kim--because she is incredible, and she is Olympic champion. Kostner--because her basic skating is so gorgeous right now, and she is World champion. They have the credentials, they have the skating skills, and most importantly, the judges love them.
This does not necessarily mean Kim and Kostner will win gold and silver. I just think their chances are better than anyone else's.
Below them is quite a large group of medal contenders: Mao, Suzuki, Wagner, Osmond, Tuktamysheva, Sotnikova, and Gold.
Outside threats, to me, would be Korpi, Murakami, and Leonova (if she makes the team?).
For those arguing that Mao is co-favorite with Kim and Kostner, I'd say no. She should be, based on credentials and skating skills. But her jumping problems keep her from favorite status, IMO. The URs and edge calls are just tough to overcome.
We'll probably have a different picture, though, after 4CC. The showdown between Gold, Osmond, and the Japanese ladies should be fascinating. I really wish Yuna was competing as well!!