Kimmie Meissner, 16, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team, is a junior
at Fallston (Md.) High. Just before she left for Turin, SI tagged along with
her as she took care of business (see time line, right) on a day that ended
with her getting a big send-off at a Fallston Cougars boys' basketball
lot is overflowing, with cars parked on the curbs and grass. The 1,000 or so
inside the gym have come to honor Kimmie Meissner during halftime of a Cougars
basketball game. With parents Paul and Judy at her side, Meissner enters.
"There's our girl!" yells Jim O'Toole, a cooperative work studies
teacher. O'Toole asks if she'll say a few words at the ceremony. Meissner looks
nervous and says, "A triple Lutz is easy compared to this."
Meissner has been dismissed early each day to skate since she was eight, her
schoolmates didn't realize they had a celebrity in their midst until she made
the Olympic team in January. Classmates, she says, "used to just know me as
the girl who was there one minute, gone the next. Now they've all been telling
me congratulations in the halls." These days she starts class at 7 a.m., 40
minutes 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 mostly
hang out with the other kids from the rink," she says. "We've kind of
all grown up together."
Inside the gym
Fallston is losing badly in the second quarter to C.M. Wright High, but you
wouldn't know it from the roar that erupts when Meissner walks in. People in
the 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 smiles
meekly as she makes her way to a reserved bleacher seat. Soon Meissner's
longtime friend Brittany Geraghty climbs down next to her to chat. "Are
you, like, embarrassed?" Brittany asks. "A little," Meissner
After a bit more
chitchat--"I can say I knew you before you were a superstar," says a
classmate--halftime arrives. When O'Toole announces, "Here's our
Kimmie!" the crowd again explodes. She is presented with an American flag,
a stuffed cougar mascot and a banner inscribed with good luck wishes. Then it
is Meissner's turn on the mike. "I just want to thank everyone. This is
really crazy! I wish I could take you all with me to Torino. You've been an
With the crowd
still cheering, she circles the gym, slapping high fives before sitting down to
sign autographs, drawing a little heart before the K in her name. After 15
minutes Paul asks, "Do you want to go home? You've got a big day
tomorrow." (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 draws
a heart on yet another plastic seat cushion. "Definitely."
? For more on
Meissner, including an expanded photo gallery, go to SI.com/players.