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Meissner helps open season at Bryant Park rink

Citi Pond kicks off seventh year with plenty of star power

Kimmie Meissner and ice dance team Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas were all smiles.
Kimmie Meissner and ice dance team Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas were all smiles. (Lois Elfman)

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By Lois Elfman
(10/31/2011) - The grand opening of season seven of Citi Pond at Bryant Park, located in the heart of New York City, provided an excellent opportunity to chat with 2006 world ladies champion Kimmie Meissner. She skated to the Sheryl Crow song "Soak up the Sun," which next weekend she'll perform to Crow's live accompaniment at the Scott Hamilton CARES gala in Cleveland.

"I'm so excited," said Meissner, 22, who is in the midst of a hectic schedule of skating performances. "I took my two-year hiatus and now I'm loving skating again. Doing shows, it's no pressure. I can do whatever I want. I love it!

"I miss competing. I watched Skate America and thought, 'I want to be there so bad.' I'm still competitive, but I love that I get to do shows and skate.

"It's a pretty great rhythm. Being busy with skating again has been really good."

She works with Chris Conte at Ice World in Abingdon, Md. Meissner said she's been working hard on her jumps and has most of them consistently back. She plans to put some triples into her show performances.

She's taking this semester off from the University of Delaware, where she's been majoring in exercise science with the idea of going into physical therapy. As her Facebook friends know, she found one science course extremely challenging.

"I hated chemistry so much, but I got through it," Meissner said.

Meissner is booked to perform in shows pretty much every weekend until mid-December. On Nov. 12, she'll appear in Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice in Phoenix (air date Nov. 27 on NBC). One of the musical guests will be American Idol finalist David Archuleta, whose singing Meissner loves.

One of the things Meissner is most excited to talk about is the Cool Kids Campaign, an organization based in Towson, Md., of which she is one of the founders. The mission of the Cool Kids Campaign is to give kids with cancer a higher quality of life for themselves and their families while facing cancer's challenges. Their goal is to have a direct impact on the children fighting cancer.

"Our learning center is up and running, so we have it there for the kids to continue their education when they're going through treatment," Meissner said. "We also offer a lot of different programs.

"Two years ago we came up with an idea, and now it's real."

After her performance, Meissner headed off to see the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Also skating at the grand opening was the Lithuanian ice dance team of Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas, still elated from their bronze-medal finish at Skate America.

"We went into Skate America as last-minute replacements and medaled," said Tobias. "It's such a huge confidence boost for us. Obviously, we still have a lot we need to improve and work on. We're a very new team gelling together, but it set a great tone, hopefully, for the rest of our season."

Next up for Tobias and Stagniunas is Cup of Russia. In December, they will be performing in Lithuania with the Hot Ice tour, headlined by five-time Olympians Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas.

In the meantime, it was a great New York evening for Tobias and Stagniunas, who performed part of their free dance.

"It feels amazing to skate with the skyscrapers flanking you on all sides," Tobias said. "It's pretty surreal. Being from New York, I feel it's where I'm meant to skate."