Meissner felt great during solid short program

Skater and coach delighted with performance in Sweden

Kimmie Meissner and coach Richard Callaghan continue to work on her jumps.
Kimmie Meissner and coach Richard Callaghan continue to work on her jumps. (Lynn Rutherford)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(03/19/2008) - In the mixed zone after the ladies short program at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Gothenburg, Kimberly Meissner wore something reporters had not seen in a while -- a 500-watt smile.

"Oh yeah, I'm happy," the 18-year-old skater beamed.

"That was the best I could do right now, and I did it. It's great to come back after some hard performances and skate like that."

Meissner sits ninth after the short program but is just 3.85 points out of third place. The other two American ladies competing here, Bebe Liang and Ashley Wagner, also had solid shorts and are in 10th and 11th place, respectively.

Meissner, the 2006 world champion, was the final competitor of the ladies short program, a 53-skater event that spanned six hours (just 24 ladies will perform in the free skate).

"It was a lot better than having to follow Mao [Asada] at the Tokyo worlds last year," Meissner said, alluding to her short program performance at Tokyo's Metropolitan Gymnasium in front of 7,000 of the Japanese champion's adoring fans.

"I actually like skating last. It's good to know right away where you are, and you get to close the show."

Meissner ended the evening in style. Sporting a bright red dress, she nailed a triple Lutz-double toe combination as well as a triple flip -- two jumps she fell on at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minn., this January.

"I wanted to play it smart," Meissner said. "I knew I could do that [triple-double] combination clean without worrying about downgrading. In the long, I will definitely do a triple-triple."

Shortly after placing seventh in Saint Paul, Meissner left long-time coach Pam Gregory to join forces with Richard Callaghan, best known for training six-time U.S. champion Todd Eldredge.

In the weeks leading up to Gothenburg, Callaghan said he had concentrated on improving the skater's confidence and performance quality.

"When we train, she pictures a rink full of people," Callaghan said. "So I was happy to see her go out and really perform the program. She had good speed, which means she wasn't tight and uncomfortable.

"For this competition, I believe it's most important that she skate well and be happy with herself. Then, we go back and train hard and up the technical ante."

Meissner has also worked with Eldredge, who recently visited Callaghan's rink in the Fort Lauderdale area when the Smucker's Stars on Ice tour swung through Florida.

"Todd was here for three days, and we worked on my jumps and a lot on my spins, and also making eye contact [with the audience]," she said.

Eldredge, who won the world title in 1996, also helped Meissner gain a more relaxed frame of mind.

"He kind of said, 'Hey, take this seriously, but not too seriously,'" she said. "He helped me feel like it's not all that big a deal."