Kimmie Meissner Wins World Title; Cohen Wins Bronze

by Laura Fawcett
Kimmie Meissner
Photo by Paul Harvath

2006 World Championships News and Photos

(3/25/06) - Kimmie Meissner says she didn't come to Calgary expecting to win a medal at the 2006 World Championships.

She won the silver medal at the 2006 State Farm U.S. Championships and finished sixth at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. In Calgary, she hoped to at least match her Olympic finish and improve upon her skating.

Instead she won the World title.

“I never thought I would win a medal at Worlds,” Meissner said.

Well, when a skater pretty much rocks the house with a seven triple performance, including two triple-triples, winning a medal is pretty much expected. It's the first World title for the United States in any discipline since Michelle Kwan won gold in 2003.

“I was very, very, very happy,” Meissner said. “The crowd screamed, and I couldn't hear the rest of my music, the last bits of it. I was so happy with myself that it was an awesome feeling. It definitely felt like my personal best. It felt like I blew all of my other programs out of the water because that was definitely the best that I could have done it.”

Meissner was third heading into Saturday's free skate, four points behind teammate Sasha Cohen. But the Delaware skater shattered her personal best, scoring 129.70 points, including 69.47 points for her technical elements.

Even though there were four skaters remaining, on paper none of them appeared to have the technical content to beat Meissner, even if they were flawless. Meissner's program components score, usually her weaker mark, was also strong.

This is the first trip to the World Championships as a competitor for the 16-year-old. She qualified last year but was age-ineligible to compete, so instead ESPN sent her to Moscow, Russia, as a guest commentator. Meissner said that experience in 2005 helped her in Calgary.

“I learned a little bit how the atmosphere was,” she said. “Irina (Slutskaya, the 2005 World champion) stayed pretty much focused throughout her whole program. Everybody that skates has to try to stay focused to skate well.”

Meissner hit every element, and even though the crowd was on its feet well before the program ended, she tried not to get ahead of herself on the final elements – a three-jump combination and sit spin.

“The only time I let myself think that [it was a good program] was after I did my double Axel-double toeloop-double loop at the end,” she said. “At Nationals, I thought I was doing pretty good, and then I fell on the double Axel.”

What's amazing is that Meissner is just a regular kid heading back to high school next week. Her hometown of Bel Air, Md., gave her a huge reception for the Olympic Winter Games, and one can only imagine what it will be like this time around. Still, it's back to the books, and yes, the prom, when she returns to the States.

Olympic silver medalist and U.S. champion Cohen had a difficult time in her free skate to “Romeo and Juliet.” She opened with three good jump elements – a triple Lutz-double toe, triple flip and triple loop, but her program unraveled from there. None of her final four jump attempts were clean, and she fell on her final triple Salchow.

Knowing how crazy the judging system can be, she kept fighting on her other elements, picking up level fours on all her spins and her spiral step sequence. Her program components score of 61.35 was the highest of the night.

Her disappointment was evident both after she skated and in the afternoon press conference.

Sasha Cohen
Photo by Michelle Harvath
“Tonight was difficult for me,” Cohen said. “I really fought through the whole thing, but I struggled on a lot of my elements. It's tough to get back up after the Olympics, but I am glad I came here and gave it my best shot.”

Cohen is one of the most elegant and lyrical skaters to ever lace up a pair of skates, but her inability to win “the big one” has frustrated fans, coaches, but most importantly, herself. Her future plans remain in doubt, and she ruminated on how people might remember her.

“Hopefully … a good impact,” she said, tearing up on the press conference podium. “Of course, I know I won't be remembered for winning a lot of championships but hopefully more than that, for the skating. I have learned it's about the journey, not about the destination, to enjoy each day. I'm still learning to be able to give it my all to get lost in the moment. I still haven't found that automatic robot to be able to pump up for performances. That's something I'm still searching for.”

Japan's Fumie Suguri won the silver medal, her first since winning back-to-back bronze medals in 2002 and 2003. She landed four clean triples and scored 119.5 in the free skate. Suguri said she is looking forward to next season and the World Championships in Japan.

“Fortunately, figure skating is very popular now (in Japan),” she said. “Many people watched the Olympics and came to our national championships. Maybe it will be a lot of pressure, but I think it will be also a lot of joy – if I can be on the World Team.”

All three U.S. ladies finished in the top 10, as Emily Hughes finished eighth overall but seventh in the free skate. She notched her personal best, landing four clean triples.

“[Getting my personal best] was one of my goals coming into this competition, and I accomplished it,” she said. “I was just really happy to go out there at my first Worlds and make the top 10.”

Like Meissner, Hughes will be heading back to school, and she'll take her SATs in May or June.

The United States will once again have three ladies at next year's World Championships. U.S. skaters won four medals in the competition, the most of any other country and one third of the total medals available.

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