World Champion Kimmie Meissner Prepares for Skate America

by Rebekah Meyer
Kimmie Meissner at the Campbells' Cup
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla

(10/19/06) - With 2006 Skate America in Hartford, Conn., just around the corner, most figure skating fans have only one question for reigning World champion Kimmie Meissner: When are they going to see another triple Axel?

“I'm hoping to do [a triple Axel] at Skate America,” said Meissner, who spoke to reporters via phone Oct. 18. “I feel like it's at a good spot right now, but it's one of those jumps that I can't really say for certain if I'm going to try it, because obviously things happen.... So it's a matter of how I feel that day whether or not I jump.”

Expectations are high for Meissner, who not only took theWorld title last year but medaled at the U.S. Championships and competed at the Olympic Winter Games in Torino. But her infamous triple Axel, which she said she lands 80 percent of the time in practice, has been sitting out of competitions since the 2005 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships, leaving some wondering whether she still has it.

“If I can put [the triple Axel] out again in competition, I'd really like to do that,” Meissner said. “I did it [in 2005], but I've only tried it once. I just want to show that I can still do it.”

Meissner is looking to attract attention for her program choices, not just her jumps. She started working with Natalia Linichuk just a few weeks ago to give her programs a little more work.

The biggest change for Meissner's programs is her music. She says her free skate has a “lot of attitude,” partially owing to the music's Spanish flair. Her short program is another big departure for Meissner, a piece of music titled “Snowstorm.”

She performed her free skate to “Galicia” at last weekend's U.S. Figure Skating Campbell's Cup, where she earned level 4s on three elements. She'll debut her short program in Hartford.

“My short program this year is a very emotional piece of music,” she said. ”That's a new word for me because my programs last year were good, and I really liked them, but this year I'm a lot more into them. I think I just want to do a different style of skating.”

Also on Meissner's plate is competing against Mao Asada, the Japanese phenomenon who is making international waves. Despite being from opposite sides of the world, the two have shared many experiences.

Now a 16-year-old, Asada qualified for but couldn't compete at the 2006 World Figure Skating Championships because of her age, a frustration that Meissner can understand, as she had the same problem in 2005. Both gained fame for their respective triple Axels, though Asada has done two in one program before and is the only woman in the world to achieve the feat. And the duo has often competed against one another. They'll meet again at Skate America.

“I really like competing against Mao,” Meissner said. “She's a great competitor, and I have a good time watching her. I think we both push each other a little bit. We both can do our best and see what happens.”

In addition to her skating career, Meissner has a few more milestones coming up. The high school senior is gearing up for the SAT. A typical day for Meissner includes classes in the morning and skating in the afternoon, but she's packing in as much SAT practice as she can. She plans to take the test in the next month.

Her scores will be important, as Meissner is also contemplating her college plans. Though she said she definitely wants to go to college, her skating is important to her, as is spending time with her family. She's looking to the University of Delaware, where she could continue her current schedule of skating and taking classes at the same time.

“I want to go to college for sure but it's really a matter of when,” Meissner said. “I like the University of Delaware, so I could keep skating and also go to school.”

But either in spite or because of changes in her life, Meissner is hopeful about the coming season.

“I think I'm stronger, both mentally and physically,” she said. “[Being World Champion] is a great honor and a pretty big responsibility, but I'm glad that I have the chance to see how it works.”