Faith and Figure Skating

An Interview with Kimmie Meissner
by Timothy Dalrymple

Photo by Paul Harvath via www.usfigureskating.orgFigure skater Kimmie Meissner won various national and international titles as a junior, and at the age of fifteen she was only the second American woman to land a triple-axel in national competition. At sixteen, she was the youngest athlete on the American team at the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino. Her youthful spirit and radiant talent made her a fan favorite, and she finished in sixth place among a very talented field. Shortly thereafter, she won the 2006 World Championships, and in 2007 she was U. S. National Champion and Four Continents Champion.

Kimmie continued to perform at the pinnacle of the sport in the years following, but endured several injuries and coaching changes. She is presently a student at the University of Delaware, active with several charities, and contemplating -- since she is finally injury-free -- whether to continue skating in shows or whether to return to competition.

Born and raised in Maryland, Kimmie is the last of four children, and a devoted Catholic. She was interviewed by Timothy Dalrymple on the intersection of her faith and her athletic career. 

What is your faith background?

My family always went to Church when I was younger. It was a way for all of us to become closer and share our faith together. I used to say my prayers at night. I still do. My parents still go every weekend to our Church, St. Ignatius.

I went through a period when I questioned everything in my life, including my faith. I'm just getting out of this and am getting back to life in the Church. Even in that period of my life, I continued to pray on my own, but it is a great feeling to rediscover the Church. I feel much better now that I've figured some things out. I understand what I believe again.

Do you find that your spiritual life and your athletic life are related? When did you begin to realize that they might have something to say to each other? Did you feel that God had called you to be a figure skater?

I definitely feel that my faith and skating are connected. I have always believed that God gave me this amazing gift and it was my job to show [it to] people.

Although I had always felt that they have something to say to each other, I suppose I really realized it when I started being able to give back to my community through skating. Because of skating, I was able to promote the Cool Kids Campaign and am able to make people smile. It is a great feeling. I try to work as hard as I can to develop this gift. It brings me joy knowing that my skating and my faith are connected.

How has your athletic life shaped your spiritual life? What lessons has skating taught you, or how has it changed you as a person?

Skating has definitely taught me to believe in myself and what I can do. There were many times when it felt as though no one believed in me, and I had to dig really deep within myself to block out those doubting voices. Yet those were some of the times when I felt closest to God.

When it came down to it, I knew I could do it, because God was with me and I had trained smart and hard to be prepared for whatever challenge I faced.

How, in turn, has your spiritual life shaped your athletic life? How has your faith made you a different, or even a better, figure skater?

My faith helped me to believe and to carry on even when I was frightened or nervous. It helps me relate to people, too, and skate to certain music. Being a Christian has shown me my way to helping others and connecting with people. I also feel like my faith helped bring out my compassion and my work ethic.

I try to live my life the way God wants me to live it. By sharing my gift of skating, I become closer to God.

In 2006, you were the youngest American on the Olympic team. Amazingly, you finished sixth overall. What was it like to compete at the Olympics? How do you deal with such extraordinary pressure? Was your faith a part of that experience?

My Olympic experience was amazing. I felt so happy and blessed. I reminded myself every day what an honor it was to be there representing the United States.

Since I was so young and inexperienced, I didn't even feel the pressure! When I went out there for my long program, I did recognize the pressure and began to feel nervous, but I said a prayer and reminded myself of all my hard work.

What is one of the great challenges of being a champion figure skater -- a challenge that non-skaters might not know about?

One of the hardest challenges is dealing with people's expectations and criticism.

7/14/2010 4:00:00 AM
  • Faith
  • Sports
  • Christianity
  • Roman Catholicism
  • Timothy Dalrymple
    About Timothy Dalrymple
    Timothy Dalrymple is the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Polymath Innovations, a strategic storytelling agency that advances the good with visionary organizations and brands. He leads a unique team of communicators from around North America and across the creative spectrum, serving mission-driven businesses and nonprofits who need a partner to amplify their voice and good works. Once a world-class gymnast whose career ended with a broken neck, Tim channeled his passions for faith and storytelling into his role as VP of Business Development for Patheos, helping to launch and grow the network into the world's largest religion website. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Tim blogs at Philosophical Fragments.