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US hoping to be world beaters

Journey slows up American skaters

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Colleen Barry
Associated Press / March 18, 2008

GOTEBORG, Sweden - The US team is off to a rough start, and the world figure skating championships haven't even begun.

Kimmie Meissner arrived just in time for her practice yesterday, thanks to delayed flight. At least she got there. Ice dancer Brent Bommentre's luggage never arrived on his flight from Philadelphia Friday, leaving him without his costumes and skates.

"It's as if it doesn't exist," said US team leader John Millier. "They are keeping their chin up and laughing about it."

They don't have much choice with the world championships beginning tonight with the compulsory dance. Bommentre's roommate sent him a second pair of skates, and they were delivered Sunday. But the skates are new it can take weeks to get used to a new pair of boots and edges.

Things are going much smoother for five-time US dance champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who are in good position to become the first Americans to win a world title.

"We're healthy, happy to be here. We had a good practice," Agosto said.

This is the most prepared Belbin and Agosto have felt for a world championships, and Belbin said they have perhaps their best shot at the gold medal. They've been strong all season and their strongest competition, Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, had to withdraw last week because of his knee injury.

The women's competition begins tomorrow with the short program, and all eyes will be on Meissner, the 2006 world champion. Meissner changed coaches last month after finishing a stunning seventh at the US championships in January. She is now working with Richard Callaghan, who coached Tara Lipinski to gold at the Nagano Olympics.

The Japanese will be the women to beat, with defending champion Miki Ando and Mao Asada, who finished second last year.

The men are the last to compete, starting Friday. Japan's Daisuke Takahashi is a favorite to become the first Japanese to win gold in the men's program. Johnny Weir, the US silver medalist, leads the American men.

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