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Original Issue

A Skater With Class

Before heading to Turin, Kimmie Meissner went back to school

Figure skaterKimmie Meissner, 16, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team, is a juniorat Fallston (Md.) High. Just before she left for Turin, SI tagged along withher as she took care of business (see time line, right) on a day that endedwith her getting a big send-off at a Fallston Cougars boys' basketballgame:

FALLSTON HIGH'Slot is overflowing, with cars parked on the curbs and grass. The 1,000 or soinside the gym have come to honor Kimmie Meissner during halftime of a Cougarsbasketball game. With parents Paul and Judy at her side, Meissner enters."There's our girl!" yells Jim O'Toole, a cooperative work studiesteacher. O'Toole asks if she'll say a few words at the ceremony. Meissner looksnervous and says, "A triple Lutz is easy compared to this."

Even thoughMeissner has been dismissed early each day to skate since she was eight, herschoolmates didn't realize they had a celebrity in their midst until she madethe Olympic team in January. Classmates, she says, "used to just know me asthe girl who was there one minute, gone the next. Now they've all been tellingme congratulations in the halls." These days she starts class at 7 a.m., 40minutes before the rest of the students arrive. She's gone 21/2 hours later,leaving the world of note-passing and lunchroom antics behind. "I mostlyhang out with the other kids from the rink," she says. "We've kind ofall grown up together."

Inside the gymFallston is losing badly in the second quarter to C.M. Wright High, but youwouldn't know it from the roar that erupts when Meissner walks in. People inthe bleachers chant, "Kim-mie Meiss-ner" (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)and wave homemade signs, including one that proclaims, we shimmy for kimmie!Six boys spell out K-I-M-M-I-E, each with a letter painted on his bare chest.("I know the K," she says.) The Olympian waves to the crowd and smilesmeekly as she makes her way to a reserved bleacher seat. Soon Meissner'slongtime friend Brittany Geraghty climbs down next to her to chat. "Areyou, like, embarrassed?" Brittany asks. "A little," Meissnersays.

After a bit morechitchat--"I can say I knew you before you were a superstar," says aclassmate--halftime arrives. When O'Toole announces, "Here's ourKimmie!" the crowd again explodes. She is presented with an American flag,a stuffed cougar mascot and a banner inscribed with good luck wishes. Then itis Meissner's turn on the mike. "I just want to thank everyone. This isreally crazy! I wish I could take you all with me to Torino. You've been anawesome crowd."

With the crowdstill cheering, she circles the gym, slapping high fives before sitting down tosign autographs, drawing a little heart before the K in her name. After 15minutes Paul asks, "Do you want to go home? You've got a big daytomorrow." (She was to skate in a show at the University of Delaware.)"No, let's stay till the end of the game," says Meissner, as she drawsa heart on yet another plastic seat cushion. "Definitely."

• For more onMeissner, including an expanded photo gallery, go to

10:30 A.M. TO 3 P.M.
After classes at Fallston from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (she also takes online andsummer school courses and has tutors), Meissner practiced her Olympic routineswith coach Pam Gregory at the University of Delaware.

3:30 P.M. TO 4 P.M.
Driven by her father, Paul, to a rink 10 minutes away for Pilates, Meissner wasput through a series of exercises to increase her strength, balance andflexibility, including the double leg stretch (above), by instructor RoseWillard.

4:30 P.M. TO 6 P.M.
Strength Training \Back at UD, Meissner used the Vertimax (above), a board onwhich the 5'3" 100-pounder jumped for 20 minutes while cords restrainedher. "I noticed more power on my jumps after only a few weeks of doingthis," she said.

6:30 P.M. TO 6:45 P.M.
Chow Time
"I don't get recognized much," Meissner said en route to Subway for herusual--a six-inch turkey, cheese, carrots and mustard. There a teenage boy saidto a friend, "That's that Olympics girl!" His friend responded,"That's so cool, man."

7:30 P.M. TO 9:30 P.M.
Show Time
After a stop at home ("I've got to change my clothes!" she says),Meissner attended the basketball game and signed autographs. Said one happyrecipient, "All right! I've got one!"




Photographs by Simon Bruty