Kimmie Meissner is on the comeback trail. Meissner, the 2006 World champion, suffered several losses to Japanese star Miki Ando last season. The first showdown between the two came at 2006 Skate America were Ando was golden. The loss that had to sting more was at the 2007 World Championships in Tokyo where Ando emerged victorious and Meissner was left off the podium.
But yesterday, Meissner was standing atop the podium at 2007 Skate America in Reading, PA. While neither skater had their best performances (each popped a major jump), Meissner kept her composure and pulled out the win. Ando finished second overall.
The surprise and darling of the event was 2007 World junior champion Caroline Zhang (USA), who captured the bronze medal in her first competition at the senior level. In the process, she received two standing ovations from the crowds in Reading.
Meissner skated last and the pressure was squarely on her shoulders. She went for a triple flip-triple toe loop combination as her first element in her program to “Nessun Dorma,” but the second jump was under-rotated and it was downgraded. She went on to complete a triple Lutz, a double Axel-double toe loop-double loop combination.
The 18-year-old received a level four for three of her four spins, but she stepped out of her triple Salchow and a triple loop.
Meissner, who won the short program a day earlier, earned 103.99 points (46.71 element score/57.28 program component score) and was ranked second in the free skating. Overall she remained in first place at 163.23 points.
“I was excited with what I did; I improved so much,” said Meissner. “This is the first time I’ve won a Grand Prix. It’s good to know what I can work on and what I have to improve on. I can’t wait for Paris [her second Grand Prix assignment] now and put together two solid programs.”
Skating to “Carmen,” Ando hit a triple Salchow, a triple loop, Lutz, a triple toe-double loop-double loop combination as well as a double Axel, but her first Lutz (in combination with double loop) was downgraded and she popped her planned triple flip into a single.
Ando’s spiral step sequence and combination spin were graded a level four and two other spins earned a level three. The reigning World champion was awarded 105.31 points (49.47/55.84) and won the free skating. She remained in second overall with 161.89 points.
“I am not quite ready for competition. ... I was not nervous, but I didn’t try my triple-triple combination. I am happy to be in second place,” she said.
Zhang’s lyrical routine to “Ave Maria” included a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination, a double Axel, a triple flip and beautiful spins. She earned a level four for her layback spin and combination spin. However, her five triple jumps were under-rotated and downgraded by the technical panel, and her spiral sequence was graded only a level one. The 14-year-old scored 96.87 (45.11/51.76) points for her free skating and secured the bronze with a total of 153.35 points.
“I’m happy with my performance, and I think it was pretty good,” Zhang said.
Emily Hughes (USA) finished fourth with 140.50 points, just ahead of Mira Leung (CAN) with 139.14 points.
Meissner competes next at Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris, France in mid-November. Ando will compete again at the NHK Trophy in Sendai, Japan in December. Zhang's next event is the Cup of China.
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto (USA) danced to victory with Nathalie Pechalatand Fabian Bourzat of France and Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy finishing second and third, respectively.
Performing to a medley of music by Frederic Chopin, Belbin and Agosto produced a serpentine lift with him skating on one foot, well synchronized twizzles, a curve-rotational lift and intricate footwork. Their circular step sequence was graded a level four and their non-touching midline step sequence was graded a level three (for the first time this season, skaters can include a non-touching step sequence in the free dance).
The reigning World bronze medalists earned 97.68 (50.40 element score/47.28 program component score) points for the free dance and collected a total of 192.95 points.
“We had originally gone into this year knowing that we wanted to do a classical program, it’s something that we hadn’t really tackled before aside from our very first free dance that we ever did to Four Seasons in 1999,” Belbin said.
Pechalat and Bourzat skated a program they called “Craziness” to a selection of modern music. They opened with fast twizzles, a level-three circular step sequence and a spectacular curve-rotational lift. The French also completed a serpentine lift (level four), but the diagonal footwork received only a level two.
Pechalat and Bourzat compiled 90.33 points (46.50/43.83) for the free dance, improving their previous personal best by six points and accumulated a total score of 181.84 points to claim their first silver medal at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating. They had taken the bronze at Skate America last year.
“We skated well, not as good as in practice but without mistakes,” Bourzat said. “The theme of our program is craziness. I am crazy and he is there to restrain me. During the program, we go through various stages of craziness,” Pechalat said.
Faiella and Scali portrayed the life of a butterfly in their lyrical routine set to the soundtrack of “Yentl” by Barbara Streisand. The Italians received a level four for their non touching midline step sequence, their dance spin as well as for their rotational and straight line lifts. Scali fell on a transition move early into the program but recovered instantly.
The Italian champions posted a score of 86.29 points (47.20/40.09) and had 172.28 overall. “The mistake affected the feeling of the program. I don’t really know what happened on the fall. But the rest of the program was ok and the level of the elements as well,” Scali said.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA) skated an interesting dance to “Eleanor Rigby” and “Eleanor’s Dream” and finished fourth (168.79 points). Kristen Fraser and Igor Lukanin (AZE) came in fifth with a routine set to “Time to Say Goodbye” (167.80 points).
Belbin and Agosto will compete again at the Cup of China in Harbin in two weeks. Pechalat and Bourzat’s next event is the Cup of Russia in Moscow in November. Faiella and Scali will meet Belbin and Agosto again in Harbin.
The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating continues next week in Quebec City (CAN) with Skate Canada.