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Young US Figure Skater Inspired by Past Olympic Surprises

Women's figure skating has produced unpredictable finishes in recent years at the Winter Olympics. Tara Lipinski was the surprise winner at the 1998 Nagano Games while fellow American Sarah Hughes shocked the competition to claim gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Figure skater Kimmie Meissner,16, has already shown enormous talent on the ice. In January 2005, Meissner landed the first triple axel by a woman in 14 years at the U.S. Championships. She collected a bronze medal. This year at the U.S. Championships, Meissner won the silver medal to earn a trip to Turin. Meissner says she was inspired by seeing young American women win gold at the past two Olympics.

"I watched Sarah [Hughes] and I watched Tara [Lipinski] at the past two [Olympics]," she said. "And it is very inspiring to know that younger skaters can pull off something that great. And I think if you are just really confident in yourself, you can do anything you want."

Meissner's young age kept her from skating at last year's World Figure Skating Championships. Her spot on the U.S. Olympic team means her first international competition at the senior level will take place on the world's biggest stage.

To prepare for the challenge, Meissner has been fine tuning her routines. She has also been trying to fully grasp the changes in scoring that were introduced following the judging scandal four years ago at the Salt Lake Olympics.

"It has been really tough having to understand what the new [scoring] system is, but I really do like it," she noted. "I think it is not just about jumps anymore. It is also about everything else. And we have had to change my footwork and spirals and spins over and over. We have had people come out and look at my program. And it pretty much changes a lot."

Kimmie Meissner will have to skate out of the shadows of American veterans Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen, the 2006 National Champion, if she is to have a chance to win gold. But she is determined to skate well at the Olympics, and tells other rising stars to keep trying.

"I would probably just say that 'you should never give up,'" she said. "Because everybody, not just skaters, has bad days. And if you really want something, you have to keep going after it. And even if you get knocked down, if you can try it again, you can probably still succeed."

It is no surprise Kimmie Meissner does not give up. She has listed American cycling great Lance Armstrong as one of her inspirations. Armstrong overcame potentially deadly cancer to rise to the top of his sport and win an unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de France titles. Meissner is aiming to rise to the top of women's figure skating at the Turin Olympics.