Yuna Kim performs her routine during the free skate on Saturday night at… (Tannen Maury / EPA )
LONDON, Canada -- For Olympic gold medalists, making a comeback after time away from the sport is as likely to produce disappointment as further distinction.
For every Evgeny Plushenko, who took three years off from competition after winning gold in 2006 and barely missed gold again in 2010, there is a Brian Boitano, Viktor Petrenko or Katarina Witt, none of whom could reach the podium in their return engagement.
Sometimes even the effort to regain peak form seems too much, as 2010 Olympic men's champion Evan Lysacek has learned, his body having said no twice (groin injury and hernia) to his planned return to competition this season after a two-year absence.
Lysacek's 2010 counterpart, women's champion Yuna Kim of South Korea, has fared better.
A flawless free skate Saturday night gave Kim the world title with 218.31 points, more than 20 ahead of Italy's Carolina Kostner (197.89), who won in Kim's absence last year.
Mao Asada of Japan was third at 196.47.
U.S. skaters Ashley Wagner (187.34) and Gracie Gold (184.25) were fifth and sixth, respectively, earning a third Olympic spot for their country but leaving the U.S. without a medal for the seventh straight worlds.
Although Kim's hiatus was shorter than Lysacek's, she had skipped the entire 2011 season until the world championships, then missed the full 2012 season before returning late last fall to skate well in a minor international competition and then the Korean Championships.
But the woman known in her country as Queen Yuna still worried about whether that event and the nationals, both walkovers for her, were sufficient competitive prep-aration for the worlds.
Her winning performance in Thursday's short program belied those fears and gave her a 3.11-point lead over Kostner going into the free skate.
Kim said one of her goals was to do well enough to earn a spot for a teammate at the 2014 Olympics — an almost foregone conclusion because she needed to finish only in the top 10 to do that.
Wagner, the U.S. champion, said it was a "personal agenda" not to have another U.S. woman wind up in the situation she faced in 2010, finishing third at nationals with only two Olympic spots available.
"Three spots, three spots, three spots," Wagner said. "We're going to do whatever it takes to get there."