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Meissner skates out strong Stands fifth going into Olympic final on Thursday

Western New York's 16-year-old figure-skating granddaughter had a grand time at the Winter Olympics on Tuesday.

Kimmie Meissner -- the youngest of all the United States athletes competing in Turin, Italy -- skated to a personal-best score (59.40 points) in the short program and stands in fifth place going into Thursday afternoon's free-skate final.

Fellow American Sasha Cohen leads with 66.73 points, followed by Russia's Irina Slutskaya (66.70) and Japan's Shizuka Arakawa (66.02) and Fumie Suguri (61.75). American Emily Hughes (57.08) was seventh.

The second of 29 performers, the 5-foot-3 Meissner -- a Maryland native whose grandmothers live in the Buffalo area -- wore a black dress with pink and silver trim and skated to Rachmaninov's "Symphonic Dances" in her Olympic debut. She held first place until Slutskaya, who went 18th, outscored her in the two-minute and 50-second short program.

According to Associated Press reporter Barry Wilner, Meissner "hit all her elements, and although her footwork was somewhat faulty, it was a strong start."

"I was a little excited and I think I got trippy," said Meissner, who walked to the rink pulling a rolling suitcase with her skates inside. "I wanted to do a clean short. I feel like I get an 'A' on that."

She earned 34.20 for her technical elements and 25.20 for the program execution.

Although she is 7.33 points out of the gold medal position, skating experts say such a jump is not impossible under the sport's new scoring system.

"Anything can happen," Pam Gregory, Meissner's coach, told Bob Ford of Knight Ridder newspapers. "And she's a long-program skater. That's her thing."

Could a gold medal happen?

"I think it's possible," Meissner said. "Pretty much anything is possible."

"I'm sure my coach and I will go through some things now," Meissner said of her preparation for the long program. "How to stay calm and stuff. Now I can put all my focus on the long [program]."


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