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Meissner headlines 'Skate for Love' on April 16

2006 world champion gains satisfaction from helping others

Kimmie Meissner will perform at "Skate for Love" on April 16 in New Jersey.
Kimmie Meissner will perform at "Skate for Love" on April 16 in New Jersey. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/12/2011) - Not long ago, Kimmie Meissner's big challenge was to land her triple Axel and a triple-triple or two.

Now, it's mastering chemistry.

"This class -- it's killing me," said the 21-year-old, who punctuates some of her most forthright statements with a disarming laugh.

"I went [to college] full-time last semester for the first time ever, and it's a lot of requirements, like chemistry and biology. As soon as I get through them, then I can take cool things like anatomy and physiology."

Meissner, the 2006 world champion who won the U.S. title in 2007, is back living at home in Bel Air, Md. She's hitting the books (and labs) hard at University of Delaware, where she is taking a challenging exercise science major.

"I really want to be a physical therapist," she said. "I think a month ago I had a quarter-life crisis; I thought, 'I don't know what I want to do anymore' and totally freaked out and was questioning everything.

"I wanted to do creative writing, I was interested in journalism, and I thought, 'I think I could do well with that,' but at the last second I [decided] no, I want to stick with this."

Meissner's caring nature led her back to her science classes, and it is also bringing her back on to the ice on Apr. 16, when she will headline "Skate for Love" at the Mennen Sports Arena in Morristown, N.J.

The show, net proceeds of which benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure's North Jersey affiliate, focuses on the friends and families of cancer survivors.

Meissner will be joined on the ice by fellow U.S. Olympians Nicole Bobek, Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov and Emily Hughes, as well as current U.S. competitors Christina Gao and Felicia Zhang. British ice dancers Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland, live musical performances and a large group of up-and-coming skaters also feature in what promises to be a memorable event. JoJo Starbuck and Timothy Goebel will host. For more information, see www.skateforlove.org.

It's a welcome change-of-pace for Meissner, who puts what she learns at UD into practice in her job as a physical therapy aide.

"I do a lot of pool therapy for patients in all age groups; most have had hip and knee replacements, or freak accidents where they landed funny on their arms, and now their shoulders are messed up," she said.

"It's really awesome to watch somebody get better. We had a woman, she could hardly lift her arm up -- it maybe got up to shoulder height -- and by her last visit, her arm was straight up in the air and she was waving at us. It's really rewarding to see that happen."

Once Meissner earns her B.S., she hopes to gain entrance into UD's graduate program for physical therapy.

"You have to have a doctorate to practice," she said. "The program is really hard to get into, but I know most of the people, so it would be great to go there."

The message of "Skate for Love" is close to Meissner's heart. In 2006, she became the spokesperson for the Cool Kids Campaign, which is dedicated to providing a higher quality of life for pediatric oncology patients and their families.

"My aunt, my mom's sister, passed away from cancer almost two years ago now," Meissner said. "Cancer has affected my whole life. I was in the third grade when I met my friend who had a brain tumor [the friend later died]. Since then I feel I have to be doing something to help out."

Meissner's recent efforts for Cool Kids have turned to fundraising, in hopes of expanding the program.

"We're working on getting a learning center up and running in the Baltimore - Towson area," she said. "It will be a place where the kids can continue their education while they're going through chemo. Parents can drop them off, go and work, and still have income, and the kids can keep up their social skills as well.

"Raising the money, that's the hardest part. Our next thing is a benefit show with a local band who wants to help us out."

Between it all, Meissner squeezes in sessions at Ice World in Abington, where she works with coach Chris Conte, who also helps her choreograph her show numbers. She plans to skate to Beyonce's "Halo" at "Skate for Love."

"I haven't been on the ice as much; injury really put me out for a long time," she said. "It was so hard to get back. Every time I would try to jump again it was back to square one."

After placing seventh at the 2008 world championships, Meissner looked forward to trying to qualify for her second Olympic team. (She placed sixth at the 2006 Turin Games.) While training in Florida for the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she injured her right hip and withdrew from the event.

Back home in Maryland in the summer of 2009, she hurt her right knee when she pulled out of a triple Axel attempt on a crowded rink. After skating on the injury for too long, she consulted a doctor.

"I had dislocated my knee cap, and had really bad tendonitis from it, and the tendonitis never really went away," she said. "So that was that."

Meissner hoped to compete last season (2009-2010), but her knee injury made landing the Lutz and flip jumps too tough. Instead, she ramped up her education.

"I wanted to focus on school, catch up with that," she said. "I have different goals now. I still really love skating, but competition, I'm not sure. I'm not on the ice as much right now."

Whatever the future brings, Meissner looks back on her world and national titles with joy and pride.

"I think about it now, and wow, that's a lot of stuff," she said. "It happened to me when I was so young.

"It was easy to balance high school and skating. Now, to balance a college schedule and training -- and also my job -- it's hard. When I do something, I like to focus on it 150%."

Meissner would like more shows on her calendar, to reconnect with fans and also stay in touch with skating friends.

"I'm so excited [to do "Skate for Love"]. It's a reunion. Emily [Hughes] and I went to the Olympics together, we did everything together. Now that I'm out of competition, I enjoy shows 20 times more.

"Skating is a huge family. No matter how long you are away, you can go back."