Meissner comes back strong, takes bronze in junior finals


HELSINKI, Finland -- After problems with her triple lutz jump Friday left her deep in the standings, Kimmie Meissner, the 15-year-old from Bel Air, rebounded last night to take the bronze medal at the Junior Grand Prix Finals.

Her routine included five triple jumps, including two triple lutzes in an outstanding free program marred only by a fall in the last 20 seconds, moving her from seventh overnight to third overall.

She performed a triple lutz-double toe loop combination and a solo triple lutz late in the program.

"I got my timing back," the Fallston High School sophomore said.

She and coach Pam Gregory worked, then worked some more, on the triple lutz during Meissner's final practice. A conservative count would have put the repetitions at about 25 in various ways during the 40-minute workout about eight hours before the competition.

"It was worth it," Gregory said.

"Definitely worth it," Meissner added.

Meissner was relaxed in her program. "There was definitely no pressure on me," she said. "I didn't do much [yesterday]."

She scored 90.93 points, the second-best total of the evening.

"In my short program, my lutzes were very weird and we spent almost the entire practice today trying to fix it and it definitely helped me," Meissner said. "It didn't matter where I ended up as long as I knew I skated better."

The championship went to Japan's Mao Asada with 172.83 points. Asada, 14, became the fifth woman to do a triple axel in a major competition.

Meissner had been working on a triple axel before a back injury set her back.

Despite the triple axel and seven other triple jumps, Asada will not be eligible for the 2006 Winter Olympics because she will not be 15 by July 1, 2005. Meissner turned 15 in October.

In addition to the jumps, Meissner's program, to the music of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, was full of intricate spins and graceful spirals that had the audience applauding.

"I went into it thinking it was like a show, not a competition," Meissner said.

It all went smoothly until her final triple flip. She landed, but then went slowly to the ice.

"I don't think I got my leg around," Meissner said.

However, Gregory had no complaints.

"I'm not surprised. It may have been a [carryover] from her short program," Gregory said. "But it was more like her normal skating. She trains beautifully.

"Quite frankly, she hasn't missed a short program in about six months. I was more surprised by the poor skate than the good one."

In other events, Morgan Matthews of Fairfax, Va., and Maxim Zavozin of Ashburn, Va., won the ice dance competition despite losing the final free program to Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who finished second overall.

American Dennis Phan won the men's individual title, and Russians Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov were first in pairs.

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