Skating icon Dorothy Hamill says the experts are right when it comes to America's chances next year at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"It just doesn't favor us right now," said Hamill, who is scheduled to perform Sunday at HP Pavilion in the Stars on Ice Now & Then tour.
The world rankings support Hamill's observations heading into the 2013 World Championships, March 11-17, in Canada.
Japan has two of the world's top four-ranked women skaters and three in the top 10. Russia has four in the top 10. The United States has only Ashley Wagner at No. 3. Japan also has the second- and third-ranked men and two others in the top 10.
The Japanese impressed Hamill recently when she met them as part of the Stars on Ice tour in Asia. The 1976 Olympic champion expects Japanese ice princesses to turn heads with their fluid succession of triple jumps and other acrobatic moves.
"A year is still a long way away because so much can happen with injuries," she said.
Hamill, 56, didn't win a world title before competing at the Innsbruck Games in Austria, where her stirring performance captured the imagination of a nation and made her one of America's most endearing Olympians.
The United States will greatly improve its position if Gracie Gold and Wagner finish with a combination of 13th or higher at the world championships to give America three berths for Sochi. While Wagner is the two-time reigning U.S. champion, many skating analysts expect Gold, 17, to be the next major star.
"Gracie is incredible," Hamill said. "With one year of experience it could all be there. It depends on how driven she is. The rest is barring injuries."
"I don't even want to say that word," she added.
Skating is more physically demanding since Hamill and her famous bob hair style graced the Olympic ice. As a result, competitors are susceptible to injury. It's one of the main reasons why Hamill won't rule out a surprise for Sochi next February.
"It's not just falling," she said. "It's the positions and spins. Some people are born to be able to hold their foot above head and spin like a top. I wasn't born that way."
Hamill likes to downplay her storied performances that have been etched into the fabric of American skating lore alongside Peggy Fleming, Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi.
"Even where I practice there are girls 11 and 12 doing double axels, triple toe loops," Hamill said. "Just thinking of trying to have done that in the Dark Ages, well, it is just not something that I can even relate to."
The Olympian recently was added to season 16 of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." Hamill will compete with partner Tristan MacManus. She also is performing a duet in the ice show with Canadian champion Kurt Browning.
"I'm sure it wasn't as much fun for Kurt," she said of preparation. "I'm terrible at doing group numbers. If you're supposed to be on your right foot, I'm on my left foot."
The training also has been physically draining on Hamill, who said, "At my age, everything hurts. The muscles are there, but the memory's not there. Or maybe the memory is there and the muscles aren't."
Either way, the spotlight will fall on her again once Hamill steps foot on the ice at HP Pavilion.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.