Asada Storms to Short Program lead; Meissner Third

by Troy Schwindt

Mao Asada
Photo by Paul Harvath
2006 Skate America News, Photos and Blogs

(10/27/060 - Japan's Mao Asada and Miki Ando executed their short programs with personal-best marks, finishing first and second, respectively, after Friday's performance at the 25th edition of Skate America in Hartford, Conn.

World champion Kimmie Meissner placed third, stumbling on her opening element – a triple Lutz-triple toe loop. Olympian Emily Hughes skated a strong program and sits fifth heading into Saturday's free skate, while her U.S. teammate Katy Taylor struggled and placed 11th overall.

“This is my first time to skate [this] short program at a competition, so I was nervous about it, but I was glad I skated very well,” said Asada, who won the 2005 ISU Grand Prix Final last year at age 15. “I didn't feel any pressure, but I am relieved it's over.”

Asada, who started her short program with a triple Lutz followed by a triple flip-triple loop, received mostly level threes and level fours on her elements en route to a score of 68.84. Her previous best mark was 64.38, which she received at the 2005 Grand Prix Final.

Ando might have been the biggest surprise of the night. Coming off a disappointing season last year in which she placed sixth at her national competition and 15th at the Olympic Winter Games, she nailed her routine and finished with a score of 66.74. Her previous-best mark was 60.76, which she received last year at Cup of Russia.

Ando recently switched coaching camps, going from Carol Heiss Jenkins to Nikoli Morozov.

“I had a hard time with my jumps last year, but today I relaxed and I skated easy,” Ando said. “Carol was a wonderful coach and always told me to stay confident, but Nikoli is a different kind of coach and has pushed me to a higher level.”

Meissner took the lead after the first group of skaters and ended up with a score of 58.82. She failed to cleanly execute her opening triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, settling for a triple Lutz-double toe loop.

“I think when I went into (the Lutz) I may have rushed a little bit and ended up forward, but I was actually pretty over it when I watched it again,” Meissner said. “I was just forward, and that's a lot better than being back because if I was back I would have been on my back.”

Meissner, who turned 17 earlier this month, showcased a new white costume.

“I swear I got this a day before I came here,” Meissner said. “It was really close. I was getting really nervous because I didn't have a dress. I thought about wearing my black pants. I didn't know what I was going to wear.

“The dress was pretty comfortable. I can probably make the skirt a little bit longer. It's kind of short.”

Meissner said she appreciated the crowd at the Hartford Civic Center.

“The crowd was great,” she said. “They were all excited and screaming, and it felt really good to be back out in front of them and to have their support behind me.”

Hughes stumbled once but still managed a personal-best mark of 57.42. Her previous best score was 57.08 at the Olympics.

“It went really well,” Hughes said. “I received a personal-best score despite messing something up. I can gain a lot of confidence from this knowing I went out there, messed up and still I was better than last year, and that means a lot to me.”

Many members of the Hughes' family were in the stands, including her older sister, Sarah, who won Olympic gold in 2002.

“I had a lot of supporters out there and that helps a lot,” Hughes said.

Taylor, the 2006 Four Continents champion, recorded a disappointing mark of 34.66.

“I tried my best,” Taylor said. “I had a lot of personal issues, and I'll try harder tomorrow.”