Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu will be aiming for home success at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Japanese city Saitama ©ISU

Olympic and world champions will take to the ice for the International Skating Union (ISU) World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, where action is due to begin tomorrow.

The event will be held in the Japanese city for the second time having previously been staged there in 2014.

Some 167 skaters from 43 ISU members have been entered for competition at Saitama Super Arena, comprising 35 men, 40 women, 19 pairs and 27 ice dance couples.

Skaters and couples need to have obtained a minimum total technical score in short programme and free skating in order to compete.

In the men's event, two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is hoping for a third world title on home ice.

The Japanese star had to sit out the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and National Championships earlier this season as he recovered from an ankle injury.

But he took part in a practice session today to the delight of his fans, more than 1,000 of whom paid JPY¥3,500 (£24/$31/€28) for a seat to watch him.

Hanyu tops the season’s best list with 297.12 points.

"I want to perform at a level where I can improve on all my past achievements including those at practice sessions," the 24-year-old, who resumed practice in January after being sidelined for four months, told The Asahi Shimbun.

Hanyu could face tough competition from defending world champion Nathan Chen of the United States and Olympic and world silver medallist Shoma Uno of Japan.

Uno is ranked number one in the world and triumphed at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships last month, setting a season’s best of 289.12 points.

Chen struck gold at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and comes with a season’s best of 282.42 points to Japan.

In the women’s competition, Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia is up against Japan’s rising star Rika Kihira and compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva, the Olympic silver medallist, among others.

Zagitova has the highest season’s best score with 238.43 points but finished second to Kihira at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and was second at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships.

Kihira broke through in her debut at the senior level, claiming gold at the Final and the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Medvedeva struggled earlier this season, but is on the comeback trail and has a season’s best of 204.89 points to her name. 

The pairs event promises to be exciting with 2019 European champions Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France, 2018 Olympic silver medallists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China, and 2018 world silver medallists Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia headlining the field.

Reigning world bronze medallists James and Cipres have won each event they entered this season, including the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and lead the season’s best standings with 225.66 points.

Tarasova and Morozov want to catch up to their French rivals and have a season’s best of 220.25 points.

Sui and Han had not competed in the first half of the season, but proved they are back by taking the gold medal at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Three-time and reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron lead the ice dance field.

The French duo set a season’s best of 217.98 points when they won their fifth consecutive European title in January.

Last year’s world silver medallists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the US lead the group of challengers.

They struck gold at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, achieving a season's best of 205.35 points, but then came only fourth at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Four days of action in Saitama is due to begin with the pairs and women's short programme tomorrow.

Rounding out proceedings will be the exhibition gala on Sunday (March 24).