All my examples are from 2000-2002, including an event to come- 2002 Worlds. Those arent past examples, they are very recent and current examples. Well if looking at how the judges typically scored the two vs each other during this period isnt the best barometer than what is. It seems a far more concrete way of examining the likely outcome than just "oh Kwan was American, Olympics were in the U.S, so she skates clean she wins." Remember most of that years judging panel was from Eastern Europe anyway, which is already advantage Slutskaya. It is pretty obvious looking over many events during the 2000s Eastern European judges especialy considered Irina the best skater in the World if he skated well.
As for your conception I believe that would indeed be a misconception. Just look at the preview done by Ice Skating International Online for the women in SLC after the Grand Prix final:
Note this is an American based and traditionally heavily pro American site too.As expected, Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya appear to be the only two skaters in serious contention for the ladies gold medal in Salt Lake City, with Slutskaya now going into the Games as the favorite. Based on their seasons thus far, if both ladies skate their current programs their best, it looks like Slutskaya would win every time. But both of these skaters are under immense pressure, and neither skates with 100% consistency so anything can happen. Last season, recall, Slutskaya was also the favorite going into Worlds but it was Kwan who took home the gold medal. Nevertheless, Slutskaya has the better programs this season and the stronger jumps when she skates clean, so the odds favor her.
While not without hope, Kwan she still has a long way to go to be fully prepared for the Olympics. Following Skate Canada her situation looked desperate. She had recently sent her long-time coach Frank Carroll packing, and was not skating particularly well. Since then her prospects have improved somewhat. Upon her return to California, she changed to her Rachmaninov short program from the 1998 season and set up camp back at Lake Arrowhead for the altitude training and seclusion it offers. Four weeks later at the Final, Kwan was skating with more confidence and her short program presentation was less stale than for the over used "East of Eden" routine she began the season with. The Rachmaninov short program, however, earned seven 6.0s at U.S. Nationals in 1998 and top marks internationally that season, but at the Final it earned her only a third place result. Her new long program is improving but still has obvious holes in it and is skated mostly like background music is playing. Her jumps are fairly secure currently but lack height, speed, and flow out of the landings. She has two months remaining to fix these problems. Achievable, but challenging without a coach.
Despite that Michelle fell and Irina didnt Irina's skate was in most respects worse and much further from her potential best than Kwan's in SLC and Irina still beat Kwan in the LP, and only lost the LP and gold to Hughes and her flawless multiple 3-3s skate by .1, a tiebreaker from one judge (the Finnish judge giving Slutskaya 5.8, 5.8 instead of 5.8, 5.7 vs the 5.7, 5.8 given to Hughes, would have given Slutskaya the gold). Slutskaya had comparable or higher technical marks than Hughes even with only 4 really clean triples, and 3 judges gave her a 5.9 for presentation even with the weak, cautious, and flawed performance. Even Slutskaya's Worlds LP with only 6 triples and no 3-3 but cleanly and well skated would have easily beaten Sarah for the gold. The same might be true of Kwan, but even a simple triple toe-triple toe would not overcome Irina skating last with a triple-triple featuring a triple loop to end it. Just imagine it skated cleanly, especialy with a triple salchow-triple toe or triple loop (or something harder, depending what she chose) and skating last. The marks would have been through the roof and higher than even a clean Kwan could have ever topped. Kwan skating before Slutskaya the judges would have also had no choice but to leave room for Slutskaya in the scores no matter how well Kwan skated.
Salt Lake City and Turin golds were both clearly Slutskaya's to lose and she lost both.