Meissner might give axel a spin

Make no mistake, Kimmie Meissner would rather be skating an exhibition tonight than sitting in some fancy restaurant or indulging in a rare chocolate treat.

Being on the ice means she finished in the top four this afternoon at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Being elsewhere means she did not.

The reigning world and national champion is in sixth place after a short program that was the mirror opposite of her performance last month at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. She was low when she should have been high in the air and high when she should have been low to the ice.

But even though this event means little on her resume and even less in preparing to defend her international title, the fierce competitor in Meissner still wants to be on the podium this afternoon.

"It wasn't my best," is how she summed up the short program, her face clearly showing exasperation with her own shortcomings.

The grade of execution on the first three of Meissner's elements - a triple-double combination jump, a triple flip and a layback spin - were all below zero. Although she recovered with high-quality spirals, spins and footwork, it was not enough.

Until her breakthrough at nationals in which she won the short program by a shade more than three points, Meissner usually has relied on a powerful, jump-packed four-minute presentation that is the most difficult of any of the competitors.

"The long is my favorite, definitely. There's a lot more I can do with that," she said.

Today, Meissner doesn't have a lot of ground to make up. Only a total of 3.11 points separates her from the leader, Joannie Rochette, the Canadian champion.

And she has a jump no other woman in this competition has landed: the 3 1/2 -revolution triple axel.

But Meissner hasn't landed one in competition since her bronze-medal performance at the 2005 national championships. A bad back last year put the jump on the shelf, and this year it was considered too inconsistent.

"If you take the risk and miss it, you take out a lot of points and it messes up the rest of the program," Meissner explained. "It's one of those jumps that if you put it in, the whole flow of the program is different, whether I land it or I don't land it."

Coach Pam Gregory insists that Meissner land five clean jumps before she'll consider including it. The skater was doing just that in practice at the University of Delaware rink, and she dusted them off here Thursday and yesterday

"Pam's the ultimate decider. I don't know how she's leaning. I haven't asked her," Meissner said.

As at nationals in 2005, where she was fourth before the long program, Meissner finds herself pondering a similar gamble.

"I would like to try it," she said. "I mean, I've got nothing to lose."

Men's program
Evan Lysacek landed his quad toeloop and won the men's title last night.

Lysacek had trailed Canada's Jeffrey Buttle by 10.68 points after a disappointing short program, but easily made it up as he turned in a personal-best score in international competition of 226.27 in the free skate. Buttle finished second, and Jeremy Abbott, who trains in Colorado Springs, was third.

Lysacek over-rotated his quad jump to start his program, but was able to still land it.

"I think this one was a little scratchy," said Lysacek, who also landed the quad in his win at the U.S. championships. "I'm satisfied at pulling it off."

Ice dance
Leading the ice dance competition through the first two of three components, the Canadian team of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon completed their skate to the gold with a smoldering original dance performance to Etta James' "At Last."

Their score of 198.59 was less than two points ahead of runners-up Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, the four-time U.S. champions and Olympic silver medalists.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir finished third (184.89) and two American teams rounded out the top five - Meryl Davis and Charlie White (179.69) and Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre (157.82) - rounded out the top five.


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