Looking back at the 2000 Worlds could Maria have defended her title had she done a better long. She won the short handily even with Slutskaya and Kwan skating cleanly and the usually anti Maria judges showed they appreciated her skating for once by giving her a raft of 5.9s for her performance. The kind of marks she almost always deserved but only on that occasion received.
She wouldnt have even needed to win the long to defend her title, only place 2nd behind Michelle. Given her marks in the short program which were much higher than Michelle's in the long it is easy to imagine her winning the long as well, but she didnt even need to do that. She only needed to beat a subpar Slutskaya who had mistakes, poor artistry, and no triple-triple tries and only 6 triples. I think a somewhat clean Maria would have had to be placed atleast 2nd in the long which would have been enough to win whether she won the long or not.
I think if she had won the 2000 World title and been a 2 time World Champion the judges would have given her alot more respect the following 2 seasons too and she would have been a real medal contender for the 2002 Olympics. Probably not the favorite but someone to take seriously instead of a forgotten old skater given no chance to medal no mater how she skated and shafted behind an international newcomer like Cohen and mediocre no talent mule kicking Hughes.