TURIN, Italy—Kimmie Meissner must be channeling Nancy Kerrigan.
Meissner, who skates her short program tonight in her first Olympic competition, says her goal is to "have fun, skate clean and not freak out."
The Bel Air skater practiced yesterday morning at the Palavela, the rink she'll compete on tonight. She'll be back on Thursday for the free skate, after which the medals will be awarded. Crisscrossing the Olympic logo dozens of times, she landed a triple lutz-double toe combination, a triple flip and a double axel, then said that being an Olympian finally hit her "in a good way."
"I feel pretty ready right now," she said. "I'm just kind of ready for it to start. I'm eager for it."
Meissner declined to pick a favorite and said she hopes to perform two clean programs.
"I feel like if I could be in the top 10, or sixth, that would be pretty big for my first time here, and obviously a medal would be really nice," she said, smiling.
She reiterated her comfort with going second in the 29-woman field.
"It's kind of nice to be done early instead of real late," she said. "That whole wait time is actually the worst thing."
Kerrigan, who is at the Olympics working for Entertainment Tonight, said that, like Meissner, she entered the 1992 Olympics under the radar.
"It was exciting and I was very fortunate in Albertville not to have any pressure on me, even though I was third in the world, they didn't talk very much about me medaling. I could just go out and have a good time and skate and do my job."
And there was another difference. Kerrigan was 22.
"I was older. I felt, 'This might never happen again,' " she said. "At 16, you may feel like you could be here again. It's a very different mentality going in."
That year, American Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold and Midori Ito won silver.
Yesterday afternoon, U.S. champion Sasha Cohen practiced on the Olympic ice but limited herself to spins and footwork, as her coach, John Nicks, looked on.
Cohen was just one year older than Meissner when she finished fourth at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. She was the silver medalist at the past two world championships and won the Grand Prix final in 2003.
"I want to have a great time out there and enjoy it, give it my all and go home feeling great about the whole experience," Cohen said afterward. "I'm not putting any pressure on myself to win or to be perfect. It's about enjoying the process.
That would be Kerrigan's advice.
"Really go out and enjoy the Olympic experience because before you know it, it's over and it's done, and then you'll have kids coming up to you and saying, 'I watched you when I was little.' And you say, 'Great, swell, thanks,' " she said, laughing. "Aging, ugh."
Meissner has already had one aging experience. It hardly seems possible, but the youngest U.S. athlete at the Winter Games has a credential photo that makes her look even more youthful.
"It's really a young picture," she said, briefly studying the plastic card around her neck. "That was, like, three years ago. I don't think it looks like me. But the hair looks the same 'cause it's wild."
The elements of Kimmie Meissner's short program, which she will perform tonight:
From Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances
2 minutes, 50 seconds
Don't call her Kimberly or Kim.
It's Kimmie now and Kimmie for the foreseeable future.
"Forever," she says, firmly. "Kimberly, to me, is too formal. If I'm in trouble, my mom calls me Kimberly, and then I know I'm in some big trouble. And Kim is just like, I never liked it when anyone shortened my name when I was little. I would tell people, when I was 3 or 4, 'It's just Kimmie.'"
Color: Gold (blue and red, too)
Musical group: The Killers; Kelly Clarkson
Song: "Lose Yourself" by Eminem
Movie: Finding Neverland
Actor: Orlando Bloom
Actress: Reese Witherspoon
Athlete: Lance Armstrong
Sport (not figure skating): Speed skating
Book: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Places to eat: Chili's and Subway
Favorite shopping place: "Towson Town Center, small stores around Bel Air, anywhere."
Food: Chicken Caesar wraps and turkey subs