Meissner set to jump-start season

Last year, in her first season on the elite international circuit, Kimmie Meissner wanted her on-ice performances to show maturity.

This year, having just turned 17, the reigning world champion is looking for "emotion and attitude," not to mention relocating the jump that made her famous in 2005.

Meissner's new long program, skated to spirited Spanish guitar music, has passion and seven triple jumps, including the triple axel. It's the jump that sets her apart from other U.S. women, but is the staple of her rival, Japanese teen sensation Mao Asada.

But whether Meissner performs the triple axel at Skate America, the first stop on the Grand Prix circuit, is another matter. The women's short program is tonight and the long program is tomorrow.

After yesterday's early-morning practice, where she had trouble landing a triple flip, an easier jump, Meissner hedged on putting the triple axel in the spotlight, citing consistency problems.

"I might not try to do it at this competition. I might try it later on," she said. "I'm not sure."

But at her home rink at the University of Delaware, the skater had been completing them with regularity, raising the question of whether Meissner might be playing possum with Asada, 16, who is expected to try at least one triple axel.

Meissner landed the 3 1/2 -rotation jump at the 2005 U.S. championships, becoming the first U.S. woman to complete one since Tonya Harding in 1991, as part of a bronze-medal performance. She did not unleash the jump this year, when she won the silver medal at nationals, or at the Olympics, where she finished sixth.

Even if she doesn't try the triple axel here, Meissner's long program contains a double-double-double jump combination that is worth almost as much as the triple axel in scoring, so she wouldn't lose much in the scoring if she turns the triple into a double.

Emily Hughes, who was on the U.S. Olympic team at the Winter Games this year with Meissner and Sasha Cohen, said she has no intention of trying a triple axel no matter what the competition does.

"We have our own things to worry about," she said after practice. "I'm still just focusing on myself."

This is the season for skaters such as Meissner, Asada and Hughes to step up. Michelle Kwan, the face of U.S. women's skating for a decade, is attending the University of Denver. The top three finishers at the Winter Games - Shizuka Arakawa, Cohen and Irina Slutskaya - are not competing.

Meissner said she would like to finish in the top three or four at Skate America, but like Hughes she sees this season's Grand Prix events as a post-Olympic shakedown cruise for the U.S. championships in January.

The Fallston High School senior has only been seriously training for 11 weeks, putting her more than a month behind last year's schedule. Her coach, Pam Gregory, said she thought Meissner peaked too early, something she hopes to avoid this year.

"It was honestly exhausting. It was a long year and a lot of pressure," Gregory said. "We're not concerned with the Grand Prixs that much. We want to get our ducks in a row for nationals.

"Every year, we have a goal to step it up. As a skater, you can never stay the same. You either improve or you get worse."

Preliminary work on Meissner's routines began in June, with the selection of music. Her coaches sent her CDs of potential soundtracks for her long program before she visited choreographer Lori Nichol in Toronto.

"I liked pretty much none of it," Meissner recalls.

But when she arrived at Nichol's office, she listened to three pieces before settling on "Galicie Flamenco," a Spanish tune for guitar and strings.

In July, she selected the short program music, "Snow Storm," at the Connecticut office of her other choreographer, Nikolai Morozov.

She took the long program for a test drive at an exhibition in Cincinnati earlier this month, and liked what she felt.

"Galicie Flamenco" begins at a medium tempo, slows to allow the skater to perform her spirals and spins and then builds to a furious climax of jumps and spins.

"And the crowd goes wild, they're on their feet," says Meiss- ner, grinning as she visualizes the standing ovation. "Of course I have to do it well for them to go crazy."

• Notes // Center fielder Curtis Granderson, reliever Joel Zumaya and first baseman Sean Casey of the Detroit Tigers wore red, white and blue "Cool Kids" bracelets during Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday to lend support to the program that helps pediatric oncology patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center. Meissner designed the bracelets and is an ambassador for the program. ... In addition to new programs and dresses, Meissner has new "butt pads," the padding she wears during practice to cushion falls. She believes she forgot to pack her well-worn pair in her bag after practice at the University of Delaware, and when she retraced her steps, they were gone. "Who would want butt pads?" she asked. "Who would want my butt pads?"
Skate America TV schedule

Women's short program Tomorrow, 1 p.m., chs. 2, 7

Men's, pairs, ice dance Tomorrow, 4 p.m., ESPN

Women's free skate Nov. 5, 5 p.m., chs. 2, 7


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