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|Kimmie Meissner, center, beat out favorite Sasha Cohen, right, at the World Championships.|
Meissner just laughs. She's like the Energizer Bunny, ready to tackle more interviews and enjoy her moment in the white lights. But she actually did need a quick break --- to check out the BlackBerry."I really want one of those," says Meissner, who then borrows the BlackBerry to type a quick reply to her agent. In the message, she jokes that she'll do the rest of the interviews in exchange for a text-messaging phone. Maybe she'll get one as a present for winning the world title? "She doesn't need one of those," says Meissner's mother, Judy. "I don't even let her get on the Internet. If she had a BlackBerry, she'd use it all day. She can text message on her phone for hours." What might she get, then? A free pass from cleaning her room this week? "Actually," Judy Meissner says, "she keeps her room pretty neat." Then, Kimmie Meissner is whisked away for a few more interviews. All day long, Meissner is asked what it is like to be part of such a sudden transformation, changing from a fairly private teenager to being put in the record books with the likes of Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski and Kristi Yamaguchi. All of a sudden, the skating world is looking at Meissner in a whole new light. Some have been so excited about her recent success that they're already making the jump to talking about her chances in Vancouver, the site of the next Winter Olympics, in 2010. Her schedule for the next few weeks is so busy that it's understandable why she can't think about the next four years. "I don't even want to know how much school I've missed," says Meissner, a high school junior who will be preparing for the SATs later this semester.
On April 7, she will skate in the opening show for Champions on Ice in Fort Myers, Fla. She will perform in about 10 shows. The one in Philadelphia on Easter Sunday is expected to be quite a scene since she trains just down the road in Newark, Del., and there is no tour stop in Baltimore.Of course, there also is the junior prom. "Yes," she said, "I'll squeeze in time for that." Meissner pauses and calls out to her mother. "Mom," she said, "When is that dance again? I can't remember." It's at the end of April, and yes, she has a date (just a friend) and a dress. Somehow, she'll try to get back into training mode, too. The offseason is when skaters select new music and work on new maneuvers. Meissner hopes to resurrect her triple axel, a jump she hasn't landed in competition since the 2005 U.S. Championships. One reason U.S. Figure Skating is so enthusiastic about Meissner's quick rise to the top is that she plans to stick around for a while -- unlike Lipinski, who turned pro after winning the Olympic gold in 1998, and Sarah Hughes, the 2002 gold medalist, who quit competitive skating a little more than a year after her stunning performance in Salt Lake City.
Skating is at a crossroads this year, with Kwan expected to retire from competitive skating and Sasha Cohen's future up in the air. The women's event has always been the focus of American skating, but there was no clear heir apparent for that glamour role.The answer, apparently, had been there all the time. It just took a world title for U.S. Figure Skating to take notice.
|Kimmie Meissner finished sixth overall at the Winter Olympics in Torino.|
So, getting back into the daily grind of going to school and skating wasn't such an easy transition.
"It was difficult to get her motivated one last time," Gregory says. "But once she got to Calgary, she got into competition mode, and I said, 'OK. This is going be all right.'"
It was more than all right. It was the best in the world.Meissner landed seven triples, including two triple-triple combinations. When she finished her routine, she buried her face in her hands. "I was so zoned in during the program," Meissner says. "At the end, I was super happy. Everything was kind of hitting me, and it was crazy. You know you did it, and it was just a major sense of relief." It was the type of performance that skating, in general, needed. Not many skaters performed well in Torino -- certainly no one skated a memorable routine like Brian Boitano did in 1988 or Sarah Hughes did in 2002. But last week in Calgary, where few American reporters gathered to watch the World Championships, Meissner pulled off one of the best routines of her young life. "It's probably a coach's dream come true to see your skater do something like that," Gregory says. "Seeing her on the podium with the national anthem playing and the medal around her neck ... it was just such a beautiful moment." Meissner has no problems showing off her medal to gawking reporters in Philadelphia. She lets some of them hold it. "Did you sleep with it?" asks a TV reporter.
"No," Meissner says. "I just kept it in its box."Later in the day, another TV reporter asks whether Meissner will take out her medal for a shot. Judy Meissner runs back to a nearby dressing room and returns minutes later telling Kimmie it's not in the box. Then, Judy hands it over to her daughter. "That wasn't funny, Mom," Kimmie says. "You scared me." As important as the medal is to Meissner, she tells the reporter it's not the most important thing she took home from Calgary. What she'll have forever is the memory of a magical performance. And her name always will be in the record books. When the interview ends, she gets that much-needed lunch break. What does she order? Nothing fancy for skating's new queen. Just the usual, a turkey sandwich with shredded carrots from Subway. Just the way Kimmie always eats it.
Apparently, there are still some things in Meissner's life that will never change.Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer based in Baltimore.