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Former Olympian Kimmie Meissner working as a research analyst at Sochi Games

OlympicsWinter OlympicsNBCKimmie MeissnerScott Hamilton

Eight years after competing in the Olympics, Kimmie Meissner is giving the Winter Games another shot. Minus her skates.

Meissner, 24, is working for NBC as a research analyst, a behind-the-scenes job that sent the Bel Air resident to Sochi with little fanfare. There, she's doing off-camera grunt work that might seem odd for the onetime world and national figure skating champion.

"Kimmie will watch the skating from the International Broadcast Center and provide a written analysis before and after each event," said Lee Ann Gschwind, NBC's editorial director for the Olympics. "She'll spend a lot of time looking up stuff on the Internet and helping with pronounciations of skaters' names. She might also cover some press conferences."

The opportunity is exciting, said Meissner, who placed sixth in the 2006 Olympics. She won a world championship that same year and the U.S. championship in 2007 before strugging with injuries that ended her competitive career.

"This is awesome. It'll be kind of cool, not being the focus [of the media]," she said. "It's like being inside the sport and looking out. I have no idea what goes on behind the camera, but I'm curious to see what it's like."

One of 22 on-site analysts for the network, Meissner is the only one who has participated in the Games.

"Most [researchers] are not former Olympians," Gschwind said. "She's not the first to do this, but it's definitely not the norm."

Meissner sees her past as a plus in her new post.

"Having been there and done that, I can fill in the reporters about what the skaters are feeling and personalize it. I'm totally inside their heads," she said. "And if, in a press conference, a performer gets upset, I could try to appeal to them on a skater-to-skater level and talk them through their anger."

Meissner's expertise will strengthen the network's coverage, said Scott Hamilton, NBC's broadcast skating analyst who is working his seventh Olympics.

"It's exciting to have someone with her resources assisting the research staff," said Hamilton, gold medalist in 1984. "Kimmie knows the scoring system and the skaters, and being able to take what she learned [as a competitor] and apply it to a different aspect of the Games is a blessing.

"A lot of Olympic medalists aspire to go back as members of the media, but few are respected enough to do so. It's an honor for her on every level."

Ultimately, Hamilton said, Meissner could end up in the broadcast booth.

"She's very intelligent and well-spoken, with a great personality," he said. "I'll be curious to see how they use her. I hope she does get on the air — that would be great."

The idea intrigues Meissner.

"I'm not shy in front of the camera," she said. "But let's wait and see how it goes."

Currently, Meissner coaches skating at Ice World in Abingdon and attends Towson University, where she is a senior English major. A professional skater, she stars in more than 20 ice shows a year and had just performed in New York last April when, at a banquet, she met NBC's Gschwind.

Chatting there, Meissner mentioned her studies and how much she liked to write.

"I didn't think of it then," Gschwind said, "but a week later, when a [job] opening came up, Kimmie came to mind. I'd interviewed her as a skater and knew she was down-to-earth, carried herself well and knew the sport. She's level-headed with no big ego. I thought she'd fit in very well."

Meissner agreed. Besides earning a paycheck (she declined to give specifics), she'll also get college credit for the Olympic experience, which will fulfill her internship requirement for graduation.

The downside? Deep down, she yearns to be on that rink in Sochi.

"That will be the most difficult thing," said her mother, Judy Meissner. "She still has a bit of a competitive edge."

Meissner agreed.

"I'm a little conflicted," she said. "I'm still married to my skates. I'm sure this will be fun, but It's going to be super weird to just watch. Peggy Fleming once told me that, when she first started [as a skating commentator], she felt like she should be out there lacing up her skates."

Hamilton understands her dilemma.

"She may struggle with that and she may not," he said. "As former skaters, we respect that we had our time, though it's always too short. Kimmie struggled with injuries that took a lot of longevity away from her. It was a rough go from that respect.

"If she has any residual sadness from having been injured, it may bring up some emotions [at the Olympics], but I hope it doesn't."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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OlympicsWinter OlympicsNBCKimmie MeissnerScott Hamilton
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