Ex-Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner finds a second life on ice as youth coach and mentor (USA)
Amid the mundane ice-rink bustle of junior varsity hockey players lugging their equipment and parents chatting by the snack bar, the former Olympian slips in almost unnoticed.
Clad in a tidy black pullover and clutching a sleek silver thermos, she could pass for any suburban hobbyist or a young mother shepherding her kid to a lesson. She wears a cheerfully harried expression, having battled downtown traffic to make her afternoon appointment. There’s no sign to remind you that once upon a time, Kimmie Meissner landed a triple axel in competition and reigned as the champion of the world.
Ice World in Abingdon is Meissner’s office now, much as it was when she was trying to outskate the best in her sport. These days, the 28-year-old Baltimore resident pours her passion and wisdom into younger vessels as a coach to aspiring champions. But her leap from one role to the next was hardly clean.
Just a few years ago, as she coped with the unwelcome end to her career as a world-class competitor, Meissner wanted no part of scenes like this. The rink was a place to be avoided. She never put on the skates that had carried her to glory as a 16-year-old phenom.
“I just said a big old no to skating, all forms of it,” she says.
Figure skating had consumed her days and her dreams from grade school on through her teenage years. But she was a shadow of the fearless jumper who’d qualified for the 2006 Olympics. Injuries had sapped the spring from her legs. Big-event falters and frayed relationships with coaches had wrecked her confidence. And the deaths of several people close to her had wounded her normally buoyant spirit.
Meissner was depressed, and without the familiar tug of her skating ambitions, she didn’t know how to pull out of her malaise. Friends didn’t understand how shaken she was by her separation from the sport that had been her identity. She couldn’t just go out to a party and be the old, upbeat Kimmie.
“I had no idea who I was without skating,” she says. “It all hit me at one time, and it was like, ‘You know what, I’m done.’ Anything that I used to like, I stopped liking, and I just kind of shut down from everything.”
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