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The 3X Factor

If you've been following any of the Kimmie Meissner developments this year, you know that after the U.S. Nationals she left her longtime coach, Pam Gregory, to work with Richard Callaghan, who coached Todd Eldridge, Tara Lipinski, and others to glory. The move was meant to fix Meissner's jumps and technical issues. It was also reported by the Baltimore Sun that she would be adding her triple axel back into her programs by next year:

When the Bel Air teen said she wanted to put the 3 1/2 -rotation triple axel back into her training routine, Callaghan agreed.

"She wanted to get that going again, and she was doing them so well in practice, hitting five out of 10," said Callaghan, adding he'd like a higher percentage of completion before inserting the jump into her performance.

Peggy Fleming, 1968 Olympic gold medalist and television analyst, agreed with the strategy.

"It's important to do something more difficult than what's in the program," she said. "Then, what's in the program doesn't seem as hard."

I remember when the new code of points was implemented Meissner dropped the triple axel, ostensibly because it was not rewarded well enough in the new code of points to justify the risk. That tune seems to have changed, and I think Meissner is hoping for more than just the few extra points she might earn by adding that jump,which she landed successfully at the 2005 U.S. National Championships.

It seems that this choice is more about psychology than about the points the jump earns. In addition to having the rest of the program seem easier by comparison, as Peggy suggested above, my question is whether the mere act of attempting a jump like the triple axel demands a completely different attitude from a skater (it might also be similar with quads or other challenging moves). Instead of playing it safe, by adding the triple axel back, Meissner would be making a strong statement that she is a fighter and a challenger. I know there's a phenomenon of playing it safe versus throwing caution to the wind, and we've seen the careful mode backfire so much in skating. I have to admit that as a spectator, I'd rather see someone fail on a risky triple axel attempt than never try a challenging move. Of course, I'm guessing that falling is not what Meissner has in mind, but anything that can add more attack and spark to her skating rather than cautiousness (which is what I'm seeing a lot of now) is a good thing.