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Meissner leads skaters at Trophee Bompard

PARIS -- World champion Kimmie Meissner will get another
chance to compete against Miki Ando at the Trophee Bompard, the
fourth event of the Grand Prix figure skating series. Ice dancers
Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski, the Bulgarian world champions,
are also in the field of the event that starts Friday.

Meissner and Ando are expected to battle for a title. Ando beat
Meissner at Skate America, where both were superb in the free
skate. Mao Asada, the Japanese skater with triple axels to her
credit, did poorly and dropped to third at Skate America.

Meissner completed a triple axel, but the last one in
competition came during the U.S. championships in January 2005. She
said completing a triple axel this season is one of her goals,
although she backed off at Skate America.

"We have been practicing one program with a double axel and a
triple axel. I land them a lot. But I have to judge it on that day
and what I really want to do," Meissner said. "They've been
really good."

Another competitor is Joannie Rochette. She took fifth at the Winter Olympics --
one spot better than Meissner.

Meissner won the world title in March in Calgary, Alberta. The
Olympic gold and bronze medalists, Shizuka Arakawa and Irina
Slutskaya, skipped that event and silver medalist Sasha Cohen did
poorly and took bronze.

"I was surprised myself I did that well," said Meissner, who
turned 17 last month. "I was expecting to do well but I didn't
know how well."

Meissner said the Olympic experience prepared her for the
worlds.

"I learned how to keep it together," Meissner said. "[At the
Olympics] I got nervous going into the last long. At the worlds, I
got to know what it would be like at that big of a stage and helped
me get myself into the right mental attitude."

Cohen is skipping the GP circuit this season and is looking for
acting parts.

The men's event includes Brian Joubert of France, who won the
2004 European title over eventual Olympic gold medalist Evgeni
Plushenko.

However, Joubert has dropped to second and third at the last two
European championships and was sixth at the Olympics.

There are no Americans in the men's event, but the pairs event
has Skate America champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin. They
became the first couple to complete a throw triple axel at the U.S.
championships, and then again in the short program at the Olympics.

Former world champions Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov are
also in the competition, but Olympic silver medalists Zhang Dan and
Zhang Hao have withdrawn.

The ice dance event includes Denkova and Staviski, who were
fifth in Turin but took the world title ahead of Olympic silver
medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto of the United States. Belbin
and Agosto opened their season by finishing second at the Cup of
China last week.

The top six finishers in each event qualify for the Grand Prix
final next month in St. Petersburg, Russia.