Injured Meissner to miss nationals

The Baltimore Sun

A hip injury has forced 2006 world and 2007 national champion Kimmie Meissner to withdraw from this week's U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland.

Meissner, who grew up in Bel Air but trains in Florida, said she hurt her right hip while running on a treadmill a week ago and reinjured it Friday while landing a jump.

"It was starting to feel better, but then I had a weird landing on a lutz. Then it felt worse, way worse," she said. "Even walking was bad."

She flew home to Maryland to work with physical therapists and sports trainers in an attempt to be ready for the women's short program Thursday evening, but it became clear the injury needed a week or two of rest.

"I have good people. I just ran out of time," she said. "It's going to be weird not being there. It's going to be hard to watch."

Meissner battled mononucleosis last summer and as a result struggled through her two Grand Prix assignments - Skate America and Cup of Russia. With the 2010 Olympics a year away, she was looking forward to nationals to gauge her progress.

"I'll just have to regroup for next season," Meissner said, sounding dejected.

Meissner isn't the only skater to scratch from the competition.

For the first time in a decade, the ice dancing team of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto will not compete. Agosto injured his back in December at the Grand Prix Final in South Korea, and it has not healed quickly enough for the five-time U.S. champions to participate.

Mirai Nagasu, the reigning U.S. women's champion, is nursing a right ankle injury that hobbled her at Skate America in October and has slowed training since, but she is expected to compete.

On the international scene, two-time world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland announced his retirement in October, citing a left leg injury, and a back injury forced 2007 world champion Brian Joubert of France to the sidelines. Jeffrey Buttle, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist and last year's world champion, retired in September, saying he just didn't have the competitive fire anymore.

Johnny Weir, a three-time U.S. champion who lost a tiebreaker at nationals last year to Evan Lysacek, said the grueling training schedule kept by elite skaters compromises their immune systems.

"To compete in this system, you have to be prepared to run a marathon every day. ... It's no shock to me that people are getting hurt and people are getting sick," the 2008 worlds bronze medalist said. "Of course [injuries] are going to come easier when you're working yourself to the bone on a daily basis. That's what sports should be. But at the same time, this system is slowly killing everyone off."

Meissner, 19, made her first appearance at nationals in 2005, when she surprised the field by landing a triple axel - becoming only the second U.S. women to accomplish it - on her way to winning the bronze medal. The next year, she won the silver medal and a trip to the 2006 Winter Olympics, in which she finished sixth. The next month, she was crowned world champion.

In 2007, she earned gold medals at the Four Continents Championships and at nationals.

But last season, she battled a growth spurt and a crisis of confidence that led to a disastrous seventh-place finish at nationals. She switched from long-time coach Pam Gregory to veteran Richard Callaghan.

Meissner said she will be in Bel Air for a couple of weeks before beginning preparations for Stars on Ice, the show produced by Scott Hamilton.

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