The 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will begin Feb. 7, and Bel Air native Kimmie Meissner talked with PressBox about the selection process for the U.S. figure skating team and what she remembered most about making the Olympic team in 2006.

Can you explain how the selection process works for the U.S. figure skating team for the 2014 Olympic Games? Is it purely based on results, or is there some room for team officials to make their own decisions?

KM: The selection process for figure skating is all determined at our U.S. championships, which take place in January. Until then, no one can be certain of making the team. How well the U.S. team did at the previous year’s worlds will determine how many skaters from each discipline we can send. For this coming Winter Games, we can send three ladies, two men, two pair teams and three ice dance teams.

It is possible for U.S. figure skating to make a decision based off of the skater’s season, but more often than not, the selection process goes according to the placements at nationals. At my qualifying championships, Michelle Kwan petitioned for a spot on the team without competing at nationals because of an injury. An official went and monitored her at some point, and they granted her the spot. This is not likely to happen at these coming championships however, since our top competitors look to be a sure thing.

What was the selection process like for you back in 2006? Can you describe what it was like going into the U.S. championships? How did you prepare for the event?

KM: The selection process my year was very different than normal. Everyone knew going into the championships that the third spot would go to Michelle, so it was a battle for the two remaining.

I cannot even begin to describe the tension that was present at those nationals. It was only my second time skating as a senior there, so I didn’t expect to make it that year at all! On practice, girls were cutting each other off. There were so many tears and a nasty flu going around that I luckily missed out on, catching an awful cold instead.

I can still remember walking to the ice for the final warm-up and the other girls around me brimming with anxiety. It was such a repressive feeling, but I had trained so efficiently that season that there was no way nerves could get the best of me. Plus, I had zero expectations — just fell back on my training and my program.

What was it like to win the silver medal? Did you know immediately that you’d made the Olympic team or did you find that out later? What was your reaction to making the Olympic team, and who were the first people you told? How did you celebrate?

KM: It was unbelievable to win the silver medal at nationals that year! I didn’t know immediately that I had earned my spot on the team, because I wouldn’t even let myself think it just in case. But I had a feeling that this was it, that I had done it. I think more importantly, I remember feeling that I hadn’t left anything on the table, because I went out there ready to fight and attacked my program.

I remember Sasha Cohen’s coach, John Nicks, coming over to my coach and congratulating me on becoming an Olympian. It was before Sasha skated and before the team was announced. I just didn’t stop smiling or hugging my coach.

When I saw my name on the list for the U.S. Olympic team, it was an incredible feeling of satisfaction. I remembered every step it took me just to get to U.S. nationals and how honored I was just to be there. And now the thought of representing the U.S. at the pinnacle of sports just tapped into some quiet dream I had stored away, not acknowledging it in fear it would scurry out of my reach.

It felt like vindication for all the school days I missed, parties I had to pass up and times when I wanted to give up and just be “normal.” Every feeling kind of washes through you when you see your name listed under the title “Olympian.”

The first people I wanted to see were my parents. Without them, I would never have reached this dream. They were the ones who encouraged me. They were the ones who helped me through the frustration. They were the ones who sacrificed so much of their time for me, and they did not have to. Upon seeing them, we all started screaming and hugging and crying. It was exhausting, really!

Then I called my brothers and my friends. It sounded so surreal to say “I made the Olympics,” but I kept looking at that piece of paper … just to make sure it really happened.


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