Rochette stumbles, Meissner's golden

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 2:32 PM ET

CALGARY -- Joannie Rochette couldn't be more certain that she's in the game now.

She just needs a little more work on the finish.

The two-time Canadian women's champion had to a settle for a seventh-place finish at the world figure skating championships after a free skate yesterday in front of 9,843 at the Pengrowth Saddledome that wasn't nearly close to her best.

Rochette only landed four clean triple jumps and burned both of her lutzes, a jump she usually lands with ease. The 103.75-point score she earned was only eighth best on the day -- not nearly enough to keep her in the top five. She finished with a 189.41 overall total.

"I'm very disappointed with this program," said the 20-year-old from Ile-Dupas, Que. "I surpassed my goals at the Olympics (by finishing fifth), but coming here was harder. My body was in shape, but I think it was just my head that wasn't there (yesterday)."

When she seized the lead after the qualifying rounds, Rochette opened the door to the giddy possibility that Canada might earn its first world women's medal since Elizabeth Manley's silver in 1988 -- or even its first global crown since Karen Magnussen (1973).

But that hope faded when Rochette slipped to fifth in Friday's short program.

"For the first time in my life, I beat all of those girls," she said. "I know it's possible (to win a world medal), I know I can do it. It's just that (Friday), I put myself in a bad position in the short and I knew it would be hard to move up."

It was still Rochette's best finish in four tries at worlds, and she's convinced she can be a major player in the years ahead.

"I know I can compete with (the top girls)," she said. "Before this competition, I didn't really know I belonged in that group, but now I know I belong there. Even though, I'm not where I want to be ... I know I can come back next year and be stronger."

AWESOME PERFORMANCE

Yesterday, she had to go two skaters after American teen Kimmie Meissner, who blew everyone out of the water in her first worlds. The 16-year-old from Towson, Md., landed seven clean triples, including the only two triple-triple combinations of the day, in posting a staggering score of 129.70 that was 10.55 points better than anyone else.

Meissner, the sixth-place finisher in Turin, had only one thought when she finished and the audience was on its feet: "This is the best I've ever skated."

Indeed, it was a personal best score by nearly 16 points.

Now that's rising to the occasion.

"I'm just so excited," said Meissner, who was too young to be eligible for the 2005 Moscow worlds. "It's so funny. Last year I was just watching it and now I'm standing on (top of) the podium.

"I was just thinking it was unbelievable that I could be standing here right now."

The silver medal went to Japan's Fumie Suguri, who racked up a 209.74-point overall total. Sasha Cohen of the U.S. took the bronze (208.88).

Vancouver's Mira Leung placed 13th (168.80), ensuring Canada will keep two women's berths for the 2007 Tokyo worlds.

Cohen, who held a comfortable 3.62-point lead after the short program, again wilted with the gold on the line.

Just like in Turin, a series of errors and blown jumps did her in. But Cohen did her best to put on a brave front afterward.

"Years ago, I used to cry, but I've used up all my tears," said the 21-year-old Californian. "It's not going to help me to cry.

"I'm way past thinking about medals. They're just things on strings. But it's all about the performance for me now, and (yesterday's) performance was a low one."

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos