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Back to normal, but not for long

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Competing in the Olympics may have been the easy part for Kimmie Meissner.

Upon returning to Bel Air this week, the 16-year-old will jump right back into her rigorous routine of three classes a day at Fallston High School and then hours of practice at the University of Delaware, while making up missed schoolwork and attending events in her honor.

And the world championships are just around the corner.

"There's no letdown for this kid at all," Ron Ludington, founder and director of the Ice Skating Science Development Center at the University of Delaware, said Friday. "Her letdown is as we're speaking."

Meissner was expected to stay in Italy for the closing ceremonies before flying back to Philadelphia tomorrow. She won't face the media blitz that might have followed a medal-winning performance, but she'll still be the most sought-after teen in Harford County. Bel Air has organized a parade at the end of this week, and state delegates want to bring her to Annapolis.

Back to algebra

In the meantime, Meissner has microbiology and algebra classwork to catch up on. After two weeks during which her focus was squarely on skating - she retreated to a remote rink in the mountains 90 minutes north of Turin to prepare away from the hype - the Fallston High junior will have to get back to her life as a student-skater starting Wednesday.

"For those two weeks, you've been a big celebrity, but all of a sudden it's like, 'Hey kid, let's get going,'" said Ludington, a World Figure Skating Hall of Fame member who won a bronze medal in the pairs competition at the 1960 Olympics and who has coached numerous Olympians. "She's got to zero right in on her training again."

Meissner's sights had been set on the 2010 games in Vancouver, yet she qualified for Turin and was competing as the only Olympian from Maryland and the youngest member of U.S. squad. When a strong performance Tuesday had her near the top of the leader board, many went to bed with visions of a medal dancing in their heads.

Though Thursday's finale seemed anti-climactic for some, Meissner's sixth-place finish was impressive to those in skating circles, who expect big things in her future.

"We're just really excited," U.S. Figure Skating Executive Director David Raith said Tuesday. "We have great plans for the next four years."

World championships

Next month, Meissner will be skating in the World Figure Skating Championships in Calgary. Less hype? Sure. Less important? Not a chance. From this point forward, Ludington said, Meissner is establishing her profile for Vancouver. She has Emily Hughes, who finished one spot behind her, in her rearview mirror.

With the Olympics and the world championships nearly back-to-back, school officials said they were almost surprised Meissner wouldn't take more time off before returning to class.

Almost.

"Kimmie's an excellent student who works as hard in school as she does on the ice," said her guidance counselor at Fallston, Soubirous Sullivan. "She's the type of individual who never wastes time."

Since Meissner was a pupil at Hickory Elementary, the county school system has made special arrangements. A few years ago, the school board began offering online courses that Meissner keeps up with on a laptop when she's on the road for competitions.

"Often, she's said how she feels that she's a burden on teachers and others to make these special arrangements," said Donald R. Morrison, a spokesman for the school system. "That couldn't be further from the truth - we're only too happy to do it."

Meissner is expected to resume practicing Wednesday, and has at least one celebrity appearance lined up: the parade in downtown Bel Air at 4 p.m. on Friday that has an ever-burgeoning list of participants.

What started out as Meissner being driven down Main Street in an antique car along with the Fallston High marching band has swelled to include city and county police, firefighters, local and state politicians, and a snow plow.

"Everyone wants to be a part of it," said Bel Air police Chief Leo Matrangola.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Candus Thomson contributed to this article.

QUOTES FROM KIMMIE

After Thursday's performance in the long program, which resulted in a sixth-place finish:

"I think I could have done much better, obviously. I've been practicing a lot better, but it's my first pretty big international competition, so I think I did pretty good."

After her performance in Tuesday's short program:

"I was really excited out there and it felt awesome. When I went out there the crowd went wild, so that was good. I was kind of a little stumbly in my footwork, but I think I was just kind of excited. I think I was definitely more excited than nervous, so it felt really, really good."

On program component scores:

"I think the judges know what they're doing, so what I put out there is what they scored me on. I might have some things to work on, but I think the judges did a good job. I definitely wanted to do a clean short, and so I feel like I get an 'A' for that, and now for the long I'm just going to try to do a clean long."

On medaling:

"I'm going to have to wait and see how things end up at the end tonight, but right now I feel pretty good about going for a medal."

On experience:

"I think you have to have a certain amount of experience, but at the same time, sometimes it's nice coming in fresh, and this being my first time I think it's good just to start out."

From Feb. 10, on her initial impressions of her first Olympic Winter Games:

"The Village is really big. I can't wait until I can step on the ice today. I think I'll feel more comfortable. But it has been really overwhelming. My support has been unbelievable, like my school and everything. I'm trying to take everything in stride. I might not ever have this again."

On whether she can continue the trend of teenagers catching lightning in a bottle in the last two Olympic Winter Games:

"I think everyone here has a chance to medal. It's good to see that younger skaters can come up and do well."

On the status of the triple axel in her program:

"I still don't know if I'm going to do it. I still don't feel 100 percent mentally. I'm hoping to do my best. If I'm doing well with it, I'll put it in."

[Source: www.usolympicteam.com]

COMPETITIVE RECORD

2006

Turin Olympic Games - 6th

U.S. Championships - 2nd

2005

NHK Trophy - 5th

Trophee Eric Bompard - 5th

Campbell's Classic - 2nd

U.S. Figure Skating Challenge - 4th

World Junior Championships - 4th

State Farm U.S. Championships - 3rd

2004

Junior Grand Prix Final - 3rd

Campbell's Classic - 5th

Junior Grand Prix (Long Beach) - 2nd

Junior Grand Prix (France) - 2nd

World Junior Championships - 2nd

U.S. Championships, Junior - 1st

2003

Junior Grand Prix Final - 5th

Junior Grand Prix (Slovenia) - 1st

Junior Grand Prix (Sofia) - 2nd

Triglav Trophy, Novice - 3rd

U.S. Championships, Novice - 1st

Eastern Sectional, Novice - 1st

South Atlantic Regional, Novice - 2nd

2002

South Atlantic Regional, Intermediate - 7th

2001

U.S. Junior Championships, Intermediate - 16th

South Atlantic Regional, Intermediate - 3rd

2000

South Atlantic Regional, Juvenile - 4th

U.S. Junior Championships, Juvenile - 16th

[ Source: U.S. Figure Skating]

Music selections

2005-2006

Short: Symphonic Dances by Rachmaninoff

Long: Belkis, Queen of Sheba by Ottorino Respighi

Exhibition: Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Eva Cassidy

2004-2005

Short: Reverie by Debussy

Long: Daphnis and Chloe by Ravel

Exhibition: Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson

2003-2004

Short: Sand and Water

Long: Pines of Rome by Respighi

Exhibition: Here Comes the Sun by Linda Eder

BIOGRAPHY

Born: Oct. 4, 1989, in Towson

Residence: Bel Air

Height: 5 feet 3 inches

School: Junior at Fallston High School. Previously attended South Hampton Middle and Hickory Elementary

Family: Parents, Dr. Paul and Judy Meissner; and brothers, Nathan, Adam and Luke

Pets: A kitten (Ozzie), and three dogs (Misha, Tucker and Flame)

Costume designer: Brad Griffies

Coach: Pamela Gregory

Choreographers: Pamela Gregory and Lori Nichol

Strength coach: Jeff Snyder

Training site: Ice Skating Science Development Center at the University of Delaware in Newark

Began skating: Age 6 (1996)

Previous results: 2006 U.S. Nationals, second place; 2005 U.S. Nationals, third place

Hobbies: Reading, drawing, biking, skiing, horseback riding, tennis and writing poetry

[Sources: www.nbcolympics.com and www.kimmiemeissnerfc.com]

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