Paris no treat for Meissner

The Baltimore Sun

Last month, Japan's Miki Ando beat countrywoman Mao Asada and Kimmie Meissner in figure skating's first Grand Prix event of the season.

Tomorrow, Meissner and Ando will face each other again in Paris, with another rising figure skating star nipping at their heels and a place at the Grand Prix Final at stake.

A first-place finish for Meissner to go with her runner-up performance at Skate America would almost assure the reigning world champion of one of the six slots at the final.

But it won't be easy. Last season - Meissner's first on the senior international circuit - the teenager from Bel Air finished fifth in Paris. And Ando has reinvented herself since her poor 15th-place finish at the Olympics in February, landing jumps she would have aborted and performing with grace and poise to score personal bests in her short and long programs at Skate America.

Replacing Asada as the untested up-and-comer is Korea's Yu-Na Kim, 16, the reigning junior world champion. Like Asada, Kim was too young for the Olympics and world championships earlier this year. But she won the junior world championships - the first woman from her country to do so - with breathtaking and effortless triple-triple combinations.

But she is still learning, as she proved at Skate Canada two weeks ago. Kim won the short program and then, like Asada, faltered during the long program and had to settle for the bronze medal.

Also competing this weekend is Canadian champion Joannie Rochette, 20, who rallied to win Skate Canada on the strength of six triple jumps and the high difficulty level of her spins, spirals and footwork.

Meissner has had almost a month to heal a minor foot injury and polish the rough edges off her short program. Although a stellar performance might put her in line for the Grand Prix Final in St. Petersburg, Russia, in mid-December, she has her eyes set on winning the U.S. Championships in late January.

Meissner, who has six triple jumps in her long program, skated to "Galicie Flamenco." Kim, who is being coached by two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, also will attempt six triples. Ando's long program includes seven triples, including a triple lutz-triple loop combination. Unless Meissner has a last-minute change of heart, none of the women will attempt a triple axel.

The competition will be aired by ESPN on Nov. 26, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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