Meissner quick to find her feet

Short-program turnaround puts her 3rd

Figure Skating

December 03, 2005|By SAL ZANCA | SAL ZANCA,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OSAKA, Japan -- Kimmie Meissner gave herself a pat on the back for her free program in Paris. She deserves another one for her short program in the NHK Trophy competition yesterday.

The Bel Air 16-year-old improved on her previous best short-program score with an effort last night that included the highest-scoring jump combination of the evening - a triple lutz-triple toe loop that she never did in the Paris Grand Prix meet, falling during the first part.

She ranks third here behind Carolina Kostner of Italy, the world championships' bronze medalist. Yukari Nakano of Japan, who has a triple axel in her repertoire, is second.

The scores were certainly close. Kostner, who was seventh in her first Grand Prix meet of the season, had 56.84 points. Nakano had 56.22, edging Meissner at 56.10. In fourth was Miki Ando of Japan, 54.56, who fell out of the landing in attempting her triple-triple.

Still Meissner's former best under the new scoring system was 54.30. The new judging system allows an easy comparison on improvements.

In Paris, Meissner fell twice and scored just 44.92 in the short program.

Her coach, Pam Gregory, feels there was a lot going against Meissner in Paris.

"It was first time out doing the short program. It was her first senior Grand Prix event - ever. She had to skate last. It was a good field," Gregory said. "All of that together made her a little tight and nervous in Paris. Here, she was more relaxed."

Meissner agreed.

"I was definitely tight in Paris," she said. "I didn't feel like myself." But her situation improved over the last two weeks.

"I've been having really good practices," she said. "I was a lot more comfortable with the ice and things. I guess I knew what was going on. I knew what to expect. I was more into it."

She knew she was on with her first jumps.

That element alone earned her 10.0 points, the best of the evening. For comparison, world champion Irina Slutskaya had a triple lutz-triple loop jump that earned 11.14 points in Moscow last March.

"I'm very happy I did triple lutz-triple toe," Meissner said. "After I did that, the rest of the program was easy ... until my spins, and that was scary.

"[The spins] were not centered. I thought I was going to fall," she added.

"Her spins were weak," Gregory said. "If we had the spins from Paris and the jumps from here, she would do all right."

Both feel she is in contention for a medal.

"As long as it was that close, it really just comes down to the long [program], anyway," Gregory said.

Both remember that she did two triple-triples in Paris to forge a superb comeback after the disastrous short program.

And there is another thing Meissner has going for her heading into today's free program.

"I am totally confident," she said.

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