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Meissner nails seven triples on way to world title

CALGARY, Alberta -- Add Kimmie Meissner to the list of
teenage American champions that includes Michelle Kwan, Tara
Lipinski and Sarah Hughes.

Add another huge disappointment to Sasha Cohen's resume.

The 16-year-old Meissner pulled off one of the biggest upsets in
World Figure Skating Championships history with the performance of
her life Saturday. She joined Kwan and Lipinski among U.S. teens
who won a world crown, and Hughes, of course, was the 2002 Olympic
champion at age 16.

"I am so happy with myself; it's an awesome feeling," said
Meissner, who was sixth last month in Torino. "I really wanted to
do my best at the last competition of the season -- smooth sailing
right through my program."

While she soared, Cohen hit rough ice from the beginning, adding
to a distressing trend for the U.S. champion. Another free skate
with an international gold medal in reach, and another flop for
Cohen.

"It's frustrating and disappointing," said Cohen, who landed
only two clean jumps and fell on her final one, a salchow. She also
was credited for a jump combination she never completed. "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."

Japan's Fumie Suguri was second, adding to her nation's medals
haul in international events this season. Shizuka Arakawa won the
Olympics when Cohen blew her lead after the short program, and Mao
Asada won the Grand Prix championship.

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.

Meissner carried an American flag around the ice after receiving
her medal. She stood at attention on the top of the podium and sang
the "Star Spangled Banner," the smile never fading.

"Standing on the podium and watching the flag, it was such a
proud moment for me."

It was another big letdown for Cohen, whose career is marked by
faltering in the major internationals. In Torino, she 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.

"I struggled through it," she said. "The quality wasn't
there. I didn't really feel on. I'm a little tired."

Last year, Meissner became the first U.S. woman to land a triple
axel since Tonya Harding in 1991. Now she knows how Lipinski felt
in winning the 1997 worlds and '98 Olympics, and what Hughes
experienced in the 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.

"It's always nice after a program to feel this is the best I
can do," she said. "There was nothing I can do better."

Her gold and Cohen's bronze gave the United States the most
medals at the event. Evan Lysacek won a men's bronze, Tanith Belbin
and Ben Agosto got bronze in ice dancing.

Suguri, fourth at the Olympics, became the first Japanese skater
with three world medals. She previously won bronze in 2002 and
2003.

"In Torino I skated very well, but I didn't get any medals,"
Suguri said. "Here, I was tired, I was wondering if I should come
here. But this was my destiny and I have a silver medal now."

Russia's Elena Sokolova finished fourth and might have medaled
had she done better than sixth in qualifying. Canada's Joannie
Rochette had a poor free skate and sank to seventh.

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
Torino 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."