Last triple was Harding's in 1991

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Kimmie Meissner landed a triple axel
during her free skate in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Saturday night, becoming the first American woman to complete the
jump in competition since Tonya Harding in 1991.
A smiling Meissner landed the difficult jump about a minute into
her program. The leap, verified as a triple axel by U.S. Figure
Skating, helped the 15-year-old skater win the bronze medal, behind
champion Michelle Kwan and silver medalist Sasha Cohen.
"It's really, really cool. It's so awesome," Meissner said.
"I want to go out and do it again."
Meissner received technical marks ranging from 5.7 to 5.9 and
artistic marks from 5.4 to 5.7.
Meissner, who won the U.S. junior title last year and the novice
crown in 2003, was in fourth place going into the free skate.
"When I was warming up today and they felt really good, I
thought here is a good place to try it for me," she said about
including the jump in her first nationals as a senior.
The triple axel is considered one of the hardest jumps because
it requires tremendous strength and the ability to rotate quickly.
Skaters lead into the jump head-on, rather than backward,
increasing the level of difficulty because they must do 3½
revolutions before landing.
Harding did three triple axels in competition, the first during
her free skate at the 1991 nationals. Meissner was still in
Diane Rawlinson, Harding's former coach, was at the competition
Saturday night.
"I was very excited about it. When she set up for it, I thought
she was going to do it. It was nice," she said. "Very nice."
Harding's axel came before the infamous whack heard 'round the
world. Hoping to clear Harding's way to gold and glory, her live-in
former husband, Jeff Gillooly, hired a hitman to attack Nancy
Kerrigan at the 1994 national championships.
Harding was banned by U.S. Figure Skating and now trains in
Portland as a professional boxer. To this day, she denies any prior
knowledge of the attack or any involvement in it.
Harding wasn't the first skater to do a triple axel. Midori Ito
of Japan landed one in the 1989 world championships, and completed
another during her free skate at the 1992 Albertville Olympics.
Ludmila Nelidina of Russia and Yukari Nakano of Japan landed one
each at Skate America in 2002. Mao Asada of Japan performed one in
the Junior Grand Prix final last year.
Japan's Miki Ando landed a quadruple salchow at the 2002 Junior
Grand Prix Final, becoming the first woman to nail a quadruple
Meissner's coach, Pam Gregory, said the teen had the jump in
practice back in August, but then had back trouble and lost it.
"I just started doing them in practice last week," Meissner
said. "Seriously."
While the other two medalists, Kwan and Cohen, head now to the
World Championships in Moscow this March, Meissner is too young to
compete with the seniors there. Fourth-place finisher Jenny Kirk
earned the third sport at worlds for the United States.
"It would be great to go to worlds, but junior worlds will be a
lot of fun, too," Meissner said. "I look forward to it."