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For Kimmie Meissner, induction into United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame a chance to reflect on ‘dream’ career

As she coped with the unwelcome end to her career as an Olympic figure skater, Kimmie Meissner wanted nothing to do with the sport that made her famous. A half-decade later, she goes to the rink almost every afternoon, drawn by the unfettered enthusiasm of the young skaters she coaches.

Like any wary citizen of the digital age, Kimmie Meissner did not answer a call on her cellphone last month when the caller ID showed that it originated from Switzerland. But after finding an email from Dr. Larry Mondschein, chair of the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame nominating committee who lives in Switzerland, asking her to phone him, Meissner returned the call and learned that she would be part of a four-member class inducted later this month.

“I started crying,” Meissner said of her reaction before noting that she had pulled over and was using a hands-free device. “I’m extremely emotional in my older age now. I was just in shock. I couldn’t stop smiling. He made a point to talk about how this nomination was not only for what I had done on the ice, but for who I was off the ice, and that really resonated with me. I guess I don’t think all the time about what I had done and the people I had impacted, and this was a really nice reminder that I have impacted a lot of people, and I think that kind of took me by surprise.”

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Meissner, who grew up in Bel Air and graduated from Fallston High School, will join Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Olympic coach Kathy Casey at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, where they will be inducted Saturday.

The 30-year-old Meissner’s resume is strong. She captured the U.S. novice and junior crowns in 2003 and 2004, respectively, and, at the age of 16, was the youngest American athlete at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

She then won the world championship in 2006, the Four Continents title in 2007 and the U.S. crown in 2007, becoming the first American and first woman to possess the world, Four Continents and national championships at the same time.

Meissner called the Hall of Fame induction “one of the top” achievements of her career.

“I feel like this is kind of the ultimate in an athlete’s life,” she said. “To be able to get inducted into a Hall of Fame in their sport is pretty unbelievable. I was thinking about it after I got the news, and I was at the rink coaching, and looking at all of the young skaters there. I remember when I was there and had no clue what was coming. I don’t even think I could have fathomed that I would be in the Hall of Fame. The Olympics seemed like a more attainable goal. So this is definitely huge for me.”

Mondschein, the nominating committee chair, pointed out that Meissner was only the second American woman to successfully perform a triple axel at the 2005 national championships — a feat that was not repeated until Mirai Nagasu landed one during a team competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“Kimmie was a fierce competitor who captured all three U.S. Championship titles — novice, junior and senior,” Mondschein wrote via email. “She was not only the youngest Olympian at the Torino Winter Games, but finished a respectable sixth. However, the crowning achievement in her skating career was winning the gold medal at the World Figure Skating Championships in 2006. Kimmie remains the last ladies World Champion from the U.S. … Kimmie will be remembered as a highly decorated skater who achieved it all.”

Kimmie Meissner reacts to her performance during the women's free skate in March 2006 at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta.
Kimmie Meissner reacts to her performance during the women's free skate in March 2006 at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP/Getty Images)

Surprisingly, Meissner questioned her impact on figure skating. After retiring in 2010, she stayed away from the ice for a few years until a friend persuaded her to perform in one of his shows. And during the 2014-15 season, she became a full-time member for the U.S. Stars on Ice tour.

She acknowledged that the Hall of Fame induction has validated her self-worth as a skater.

“I didn’t even realize I was feeling that way for so long,” she said. “A big goal of mine was to get back on tour, and when that happened, I kind of realized, ‘Wow, I keep thinking this, and I don’t have any reason to. I’m going out and performing well and getting good feedback from the audience and my producers.’ Sometimes I’m the kind of person that always looks forward and I don’t let myself think about the past. Sometimes it’s nice to do that though and realize all of the things you’ve done.”

Pam Gregory, who coached Meissner from 2003 to 2008, said that doubt drove Meissner to push herself to greater heights.

“That’s part of what made her so good,” said Gregory, who coaches at the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club. “She has such high expectations of herself and was never resting on her laurels. She had a pretty good run of it, but when it was happening, it was just constant pressure, and it was hard to stop and smell the roses and enjoy what you’ve done because the next thing keeps coming at you. But she lived the dream for figure skaters as far as accomplishments go.”

Kimmie Meissner
(Brian Bahr, Getty Images)

When she is not taking classes at Towson University’s physician assistant studies program, Meissner is coaching five skaters at Ice World in Abingdon. Her charges have said that Meissner’s technical program was strong enough that she could compete again, but Meissner — who is snowboarding, hiking, and camping with her husband during her free time — said she marvels at the athleticism of the current group of skaters on the national and world levels.

“I think what I’m most surprised about is maybe the number of young ones who can do the whole set of quads. It’s pretty astounding that they can all do that,” she said. “So it’s exciting to watch them do that. But I know what my body feels like after skating so many years and then doing harder jumps, and I just think about them right now, and I definitely worry about their little hips and knees. I hope it doesn’t end their careers. You want to see them skate for a long time.”

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One of Meissner’s students is Mia Eckels, a 17-year-old junior from York County in Pennsylvania who qualified to compete at the junior level of the U.S. championships, which began Tuesday at Greensboro Coliseum.

Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner, who grew up in Bel Air and graduated from Fallston High School, skates at the McKeldin Square ice rink in 2018. Meissner will be inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame on Saturday at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner, who grew up in Bel Air and graduated from Fallston High School, skates at the McKeldin Square ice rink in 2018. Meissner will be inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame on Saturday at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

After coaching at the nationals, Meissner will be inducted while accompanied by her parents, grandmother, three brothers, two sisters-in-law (the other is staying home to babysit young children) and several cousins.

“It will be a big event for me,” Meissner said. “Mia will skate, and then a few days later, I will get inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s a pretty exciting nationals.”

U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro North Carolina

Through Sunday

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TV: Chs. 11, 4, NBCSN

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