Meissner's rally lifts her to fifth

Free skate comes to her aid in Paris

Figure Skating


PARIS -- Kimmie Meissner didn't mind congratulating herself.

"I did a pretty good job out there," she said. "I give myself a pat on the back."

She deserves it.

After a disastrous short program Friday, she came back to deliver a sparkling and difficult performance that included two triple-triple combinations and two triple lutzes - the jump she fell out of in the short program.

The Bel Air 16-year-old came in fifth overall and fourth in yesterday's free skate in the Trophee Eric Bompard.

"I wasn't too concerned about the marks, but I was happy with how I skated out there and stood up on all my jumps," she said.

Mao Asada of Japan, who consistently beat Meissner in the junior ranks last year, outpointed two-time world silver medalist Sasha Cohen of the United States for first place.

Japan's Shizuka Arakawa, the 2004 world champion, was third, although she beat Cohen in the free skate when Cohen fell late in her routine while trying a triple salchow.

"In the grand scheme of things, fifth is excellent at this competition," said Pam Gregory, Meissner's coach. "It is really a high level of skaters."

Joannie Rochette of Canada barely beat Meissner for fourth. Rochette was the bronze medalist in the Grand Prix final last December.

Meissner beat out Russia's Elena Sokolova, who was the world silver medalist behind Michelle Kwan in 2003.

Meissner and Gregory said they were especially pleased with the performance of the triple lutzes.

"In practice today, I don't think I missed one," Meissner said. "I could do them a lot easier than yesterday. I was too anxious [on Friday]. I wasn't anxious today."

She opened her program to the music of Respighi's Queen of Sheba with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, then a double axel - where she once did a triple axel.

Both Gregory and Meissner agreed it wasn't worth trying the triple axel, especially since, the skater acknowledged, her last good one was a week ago.

"We hope to get the triple axel sometime this year," Gregory said. "If they are not consistent, we are not going to put it in and take that big of a risk."

She followed the double axel with another combination, a triple lutz-triple toe loop.

Then came a triple loop that she struggled with.

"We knew she would be marked down on the loop, but we're happy she fought it. She didn't let it become a fall," Gregory said.

However, Meissner ended well with a double axel-double toe loop-double loop.

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