By Kimmie Meissner
It’s been six years since I’ve been at U.S. championships. This time I arrived without my skates, toting around a silly amount of shoes, for all the possibilities nationals can hold, even for the spectator.
Arriving at the arena for the first time, seeing the ice and the panel set up for the judges, a wave of memories came rushing back and I felt as though I had never left. Is it possible for the desire to compete to ever leave you? I thought it was until I finally sat down and watched my first skating competition since beginning to compete myself. There’s no easy way to describe what it’s like being here and not participating. In some ways, I’m glad I don’t have to be out there risking everything and pushing my body to its limit, but in many more ways it feels wrong to be sitting on the sidelines and traveling without my skates. Talking with friend, and fellow Olympian Emily Hughes, we both agree, “it just feels really weird”.
There were a lot of things I didn’t realize happened before we all took to the ice. I had no idea the videos being played were so intense, really adding to the anticipation of that last group. I had no idea they showed people in the audience, just like many other sporting events. I had no idea just how nerve wracking it can be to watch your friends perform programs that can change their lives. Watching the ladies free program was a roller coaster ride of emotions. As a skater you know what is going through their minds and how it feels to receive that standing ovation or fall in front of a nearly sold out arena. It’s nearly impossible not to feel the skater’s exuberance or their heartbreak, as I found myself in both tears of sadness and joy.
Something else I felt was that familiar pull to the ice. The itch to compete can never leave an athlete, no matter how much time comes to pass. That desire to skate and to test my character all while standing alone in the center of the ice surrounded by thousands is hardwired in my soul and will most likely always present itself in the presence of every skater’s stage. A stage that is both welcoming and daunting.
Hello again, old friend.