It looked, for a while, like an ordinary figure skating training session. Several young women executed jumps, rehearsed footwork and stole sips from water bottles as their coaches stood rinkside at Incredible Ice.
But then former world champion Kimmie Meissner fell hard attempting a jump and bungled two others during a run-through of the short program that she plans to unveil next month at Skate America, the season-opening international event.
Suddenly, renowned coach Richard Callaghan, who has been tutoring Meissner in this affluent South Florida community for just over six months, burst from the coaching box and skated across the ice. Retired skater Todd Eldredge, a six-time national champion and longtime Callaghan student who has become his coaching sidekick, followed.
With a mix of words, body language and skating maneuvers, Callaghan and Eldredge dissected Meissner's program and performance, immersing themselves in a tiny piece of what has become an exhaustive joint project to revive her career.
A celebrated 16-year-old world champion just over two years ago, Meissner saw her season crumble last winter, bottoming out in January with a mistake-laden seventh-place finish at the U.S. championships. That drove her from her home in Bel Air, Md., and Pam Gregory, her coach of five years, to this rink in a palm tree-shrouded suburb just east of the Florida Everglades.
Only after a section of choreography had been redone, and Meissner had nailed four clean double axels, did Callaghan retreat to the coaching box, and normalcy seemed to return. Or was the mid-workout flurry on the ice normal?