The world's top figure skaters are in Los Angeles for the World Figure Skating Championships, which were getting underway on Tuesday.

More than 200 skaters from 52 countries will take part in the championships, with Montenegro, Brazil and Ireland taking part for the first time.

Skaters will vie for four world titles:  ladies, men's, pairs and ice dancing.  Reigning world and Grand Prix Final champion Mao Asada of Japan will defend her women's title, with tough competition expected from Yu-Na Kim of South Korea.

Following the retirement of 2008 world champion Jeffrey Buttle of Canada, top competitors for the men's title include Brian Joubert of France, Patrick Chan of Canada and Jeremy Abbot of the United States.  Abbott is 2009 U.S. national champion and 2008 Grand Prix Final champion.

U.S. pairs title holders Rockne Brubaker and Keauna McLaughlin will go up against strong teams from Germany, China, Canada and Eastern Europe.

Brubaker says this week's competition sets the stage for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which are less than one year away.

"This kind of sets the playing stage for next year and shows who is going to be up there near the top and who has the ability to possibly win a medal next year at the Olympics.  So it kind of sets up the next season," Brubaker said.

The World Figure Skating Championships run through March 29.