U.S. figure skating has its new poster girl.
After winning the women's world championship at the Saddledome yesterday, Kimmie Meissner will likely have her date book filled up with appearances and photo opportunities.
But first, she has a big date -- her school prom.
"I'm going with a friend, who is a guy, but just a friend," the bubbly 16-year-old said.
With an infectious giggle and a gold medal hanging around her neck, Meissner was bouncing in her seat during a post-victory press conference.
And she has no regrets about giving up a social life or school time to train for that moment, when she watched the U.S. flag raised to the rafters in her honour.
"I was having a lot of fun, too," said the high schooler from Bel Air, Md., who finished sixth at last month's Olympics. "Now that everything is over, I can do some school-related activities. But the whole year, I was having a lot of fun."
Meissner was the only skater yesterday to land two triple-triple combinations, the rest of the women played it safe with triple-doubles. She hit every one of her jumps, including a double Axel on which she fell at the U.S. championships.
She collected 129.70 points for her free skate, smashing her personal best by 18.9, to finish first overall with 218.33. Fumie Suguri of Japan was second at 209.74 and American Sasha Cohen was third at 208.88. Canadian Joannie Rochette, falling on her triple Lutz and popping two scheduled triples, slipped to seventh at 189.41 and Vancouver's Mira Leung was 13th at 168.80.
Meissner, who may delay going back to school by a day or two to celebrate her title, threw her hands in the air and shrieked as the crowd of 9,843 rose to its feet.
"The only time I let myself think (this was a good program) was after I'd done the double Axel-double, toe-double toe at the end," she said. "At nationals, I thought I was doing pretty good but then I fell on the double Axel. So, I was trying not to think this was really good before it was over. When it ended, it kind of got me that 'oh, that was the best I've ever skated.' "
Cohen didn't have quite as much fun. In fact, she looked like she'd rather be anywhere else but the post-event press conference.
She destroyed the competition in the short program, racking up 94.21 points, four more than Suguri, who maintained her second-place standing throughout the competition.
But Cohen started to unravel in her free skate, just as she did at Olympics where she lost grip on the title and settled for silver to Japan's Shizuka Arakawa.
Cohen failed to complete two of her combination jumps and fell on her triple Salchow.
"I'm past medals. They're just things on strings," said the 21-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif. "It's more about performances. For me, I judge every event with every performance and, for me, this was a low performance."
Rochette admitted she, too, was disappointed with her program, considering her free skate was only eighth best.
"I had a hard time to stay focused," the Canadian champ said. "The battle was in my head, not in my body."
- - -
1. Kimmie Meissner, U.S. (218.33)
2. Fumie Suguri, Japan (209.74)
3. Sasha Cohen, U.S. (208.88)
4. Elena Sokolova, Russia (202.27)
5. Yukari Nakano, Japan (195.65)
6. Sarah Meier, Switzerland (195.11)
7. Joannie Rochette, Ile Dupas, Que. (189.41)
8. Emily Hughes, U.S. (184.75)
9. Susanna Poykio, Finland (180.06).
10. Kiira Korpi, Finland (176.65)
13. Mira Leung, Vancouver (168.80)