WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS Kimmie Meissner skates to upset of Sasha Cohen
Cohen finished third behind Japan's Fumie Suguri.
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -- America has a world champion -- Kimmie Meissner, not Sasha Cohen.
Following the tradition of teenage American women pulling off big upsets, the 16-year-old Meissner used the performance of her life Saturday to soar to the World Figure Skating Championships title.
And following a distressing trend, U.S. champion Cohen fell apart again in a free skate, winding up third overall behind Japan's Fumie Suguri.
Meissner was as sensational as Cohen was weak. She landed seven triple jumps, including two triple-triple combinations -- the only ones of the day -- just a few minutes after Cohen self-destructed.
Even before Meissner was done with her final spin, she was smiling widely, knowing she couldn't have done any better. She lingered on the ice, her arms raised to the rafters, where she was certain her mother was sitting "because she can't stand to be too close to the ice."
"This blows the rest of the programs out of the water," she said, still breathless over a routine that earned a personal-best 129.70 points, easily the most in the free skate. That gave Meissner nearly a 10-point margin over Cohen, who'd led her countrywoman by 5.58 after the short program.
"I am so happy with myself; it's an awesome feeling," added Meissner, who was sixth in Turin.
It was another awesome letdown for Cohen, the Olympic silver medalist whose career is marked by faltering in the major internationals. She also led in Turin after the short program, then felt she was given a gift when she won silver despite a mediocre free skate.
Cohen also slipped from third to fourth in the 2002 Olympics, has two runner-up finishes at worlds, and has never beaten Michelle Kwan at nationals.
"It's frustrating and disappointing," Cohen said. "But I know I gave it my best effort.
"A few years ago, I used to cry, but I used up all my tears. I am disappointed."
Last year, Meissner became the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel since Tonya Harding in 1991.
Now she knows how Tara Lipinski felt in winning the 1997 worlds and '98 Olympics, and what Sarah Hughes experienced when she won the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Unlike those teens, Meissner plans to stick around for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver; her debut in Canada and at senior worlds was an overwhelming success.
Emily Hughes scored a personal-best 104.84 in her free skate, securing a top 10 in her first senior worlds. It was a nice way to finish off the year in which she was third at nationals, seventh in Turin and then eighth here.
"Going into nationals this year after being sixth the year before and moving up three spots, that was amazing," said the younger sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes. "The whole Olympic experience and the world championships experience made it an amazing year."
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