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Young skater has triple axel ready for Campbell's Cup

Kimmie Meissner, a 17-year-old high schooler who has been competing in figure skating for three seasons, plans to bring the rare jump back into her program.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published October 15, 2006


CINCINNATI - The women are all shooting for Kimmie Meissner now.

Not bad for a 17-year-old high school senior in only her third season among the figure skating elite.

Meissner's stunning rise began when she finished third at the U.S. championships in 2005, hitting a rare triple axel along the way. While the triple axel disappeared from her programs last season, the upward spiral didn't stop.

Meissner finished second at nationals in January, then was sixth at the Olympics. With most of the top competitors - Olympic medalists Shizuka Arakawa (gold) and Irina Slutskaya (bronze) and injured American star Michelle Kwan - skipping the world championships in March, she beat U.S. champion Sasha Cohen for the title.

She begins her year Sunday at the Campbell's Cup, where the triple axel should return to her repertoire.

"If I competed today, I would do the triple because I landed it today in both programs," she said after a practice session last week. "But I can't say for sure I will do it. I don't want to say I will and then not do it, and everyone is expecting it and I let people down. Some weeks it is really good, though, and that encourages me.

"Right now, I've put it in for Campbell's."

Cohen, who is not expected to skate a full schedule this year, is also entered Sunday, along with fellow Olympian Emily Hughes and Japanese sensation Mao Asada.

Last season, Asada won the Grand Prix finals even though, at 15, she was too young to skate at the Turin Games. Asada and Meissner have met before, particularly in juniors, and the Campbell's event could shape up as a battle of triple axels because Asada is the only woman to do two in a routine.

"It is first time for me to participate in the Campbell Cup, so I am very excited," Asada said.

Asada said she has been motivated by the Olympic performance of her countrywoman.

"I think each of the Japanese competitors has made great efforts to pursue this level," Asada said. "I think that Shizuka-san's gold medal inspires everyone very much."

Sunday's competition has a team format. The Americans and Japanese meet in the women's and men's events, while Team USA faces Team Canada in a combined pairs and ice dancing competition.

Also scheduled to skate are two-time world bronze medalist Evan Lysaceck and three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir in the men's event. Japan is led by Nobunari Oda, fourth at worlds, and 2005 Skate America champion Daisuke Takahashi.

Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto headline the dance field against Canada's world silver medalists Marie France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.