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Kimmie Meissner no longer skating in circles

October 1, 2008 |  7:43 pm

Fig Kimmie Meissner lost her jumps and lost her way shortly after winning the 2006 World Championships, leading her to wonder if her figure skating career had peaked at the age of 16.

The year after she won her world title, Meissner slipped to fourth. This year she fell to eighth. Meissner, a delightfully engaging and unaffected young woman, knew something had to change.

"There were a lot of times I had to sit down and ask myself, do I still want to skate?" she said. "I always said 'yes,' because I love it, and that's how I got through it."

Meissner found new inspiration by moving from her home in Bel Air, Md., to Coral Springs, Fla., to work with coach Richard Callaghan. With her confidence restored -- and her jumps nearly back -- she's eager to resume competing, and is looking forward to the 2009 World Championships at Staples Center in March.

After that, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games won't be far off.

"I'm really excited about the season," she said. "I've been working really hard and I hope people can see it. I'm definitely going to be going for one of those spots on the world team this year."

Nothing like being confident. "That's something i've kind of gotten back," she said. "I feel

more like myself."

Meissner was among a group of skaters gracing the ice at the Toyota Center in El Segundo Wednesday to practice for a show that will take place Friday at the Galen Center on the USC campus. The McDonald's Family Tribute on Ice, which will feature skaters honoring their loved ones in performances done to live music, will be aired by NBC on Nov. 16. It's designed to promote World Children's Day on Nov. 20 and raise money for children's charities such as Ronald McDonald House.

"Anything that's going to help children I love to do," said Meissner, who will turn 19 on Saturday. "It's so great to be able to give back to the community. We get to do something we love and enjoy ourselves while we're helping children."

Meissner isn't much past childhood herself, but she has taken charge of her life. Feeling stale and unable to progress the past few years, she moved to Florida to work with Callaghan and former U.S. champion Todd Eldredge.

She didn't have much time to work on her programs with Callaghan before this year's World Championships, but since has put in a lot of happy and focused effort.

"I feel a lot better," she said. "By no means am I perfect. No one is. Maybe Michelle Kwan."

Meissner's mother made the move with her, but now she's on her own.

"At first I was freaked out," Meissner said. "Every little noise I heard, I'd jump and I'd check all the locks and the garage."

The big drawback of Florida living? "It's been really hot and it doesn't do much for my hair," she said, laughing.

Two-time U.S. pairs champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. of Santa Monica also will perform Friday.

Baldwin proposed to his Japanese-born partner on the ice after the long program at this year's U.S. championships, but they've been so preoccupied with show performances, building a home in San Diego County and making plans to compete this season that they agreed to postpone the wedding until they have time to breathe.

"There's too much stuff," he said. "We're just too busy."

But the duo, which practices in Paramount and Burbank with choreographer Philip Mills and coach Lloyd Eisler, wasn't too busy to perform in Friday's show. They're scheduled to perform two numbers, one of them while Nick Lachey sings live.

"It makes you feel good when you can do something special and help people who need it," Baldwin said.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Kimmie Meissner autographs a skate to be donated to a resident at the LA Ronald McDonald's House. Credit: Helene Elliott/Los Angeles Times

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