The first year is when the skater really needs to get out there and start working their way up the standings (if they aren't already a medal contender). At the very least, they probably need to be somewhat successful in the junior ranks. The second and third years are when they need to continue to climb in the results, and hopefully in the third year they land themselves on or near the podium. Obviously the Olympic year is when you want to go for your two strongest programs, and hopefully from the previous seasons, the skater(s) has found the right style for them. The ladies gold medalists are usually the ones who are fresh faces at the beginning of the Olympic cycle (with the big exception of Arakawa in the last six Games), while the men are usually already in strong contention before the cycle begins. Lysacek was a World medalist in 2005, Plushenko obviously had World/European medals since 1998, Yagudin was on the World podium in 1997, and so on. Pairs seem to follow the trend of the men with longevity really paying off, while ice dance this year strayed from the norm as the top two teams were just establishing themselves during the last Olympics.