The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew

Meissner, Gilles, Wagner talk about the upcoming season

Alexe Gilles was excited to receive a chance to compete at Skate America this season.
Alexe Gilles was excited to receive a chance to compete at Skate America this season. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(10/08/2009) - It's ladies blog today! We caught up with Kimmie Meissner, Ashley Wagner, and Alexe Gilles.

We recently "talked" to Kimmie via Facebook and caught up about the summer and life in Florida in general.

"Summer was almost like being on vacation since the beach was so close," wrote Kimmie. "My friends and I went to a lot of concerts. It was fun!"

So what's it like having the beach right there? Does she spend all her time sunbathing now? And what does the humidity do to her hair?

"I have never been much of a beach person, but I love it now. Maybe not spending all day there, but a good three or four hours. It was pretty hot this summer. My hair started to adjust to it, I think. Then of course it would rain at like 3 o'clock and my hair poofed."

Kimmie said her biggest adjustment to life in Florida is being on her own. "I had to be responsible and pay my bills and attempt to cook for myself," she said.

On to skating: we had heard that Kimmie had had some trouble with her knee, and she said she had been seeing a physical therapist for it and left it at that. It's the Olympic season, obviously, and we wondered how she felt compared to some of the other girls, having already been.

"I don't feel more pressure, just like I know what to expect now," she said. "Nationals the year of the Olympics is so intense. Everyone knows what is riding on those four minutes."

Naturally, we asked whether she was working on the triple Axel again.

"This question comes up every year, and I always have the same answer. I want to do it, but I can't really say for sure. It's like, I want to win the lottery too, haha."

Next, we gave Ashley a call. She and Drew have something in common; they both lived in Alaska when they were young.

"I'm a military brat," Ashley told us. "I was born in Heidelberg, Germany. I moved nine times in ten years! I started skating [at the age of five] in Eagle River, Alaska, so that's where everything started. I think everyone should try and make it out there because it's so different."

Ashley is looking forward to her Grand Prix competitions in Russia and Japan.

"I've always wanted to go to Russia and see Red Square because my dad used to go to Russia on business," she said. "I'm not planning to be at my peak for the Grand Prix because I have to keep it up for National and the Olympics. I'm happy with where I am so far."

So, what will she be wearing?! Ashley said her choreographer, Irina Romanova, wanted something dreamy and moody for her short to "Once Upon a Time in America," performed by Yo-Yo Ma.

"It's asymmetrical, blue with flowers and spidery looking things on one side," she said. "For my long we're going for something more traditional. It's purple, with a very low back, which I am in love with. I'm excited for everyone to see the finished products because I love them!"

Next, we asked if she had changed her technical strategy at all for the Olympic season?

"Before, I always focused on doing things that were harder," said Ashley. "Like doing two triple Lutzes and two triple flips. Now we're going for the highest GOE we can possibly get on jumps. We're thinking what we need to do to be competitive."

We knew that Ashley had just seen the new "Fame" movie and we were intrigued to hear about it.

"It was good!" said Ashley. "Actually, I've never seen any of the other "Fame" versions, but there were some really good dance scenes. The movie theater was packed with twelve-year-old girls. At the end of the movie, they all ran down to the front and had a dance party."

We all decided that a similar movie about skating would be good; not the usual kitschy mis-matched pair drama, but a story about a group of skaters at a rink.

"That would be so good," agreed Ashley. "Skating is the perfect setting -- there's so much drama that goes on, with all the different personality types."

She wouldn't name names, unfortunately. However, we asked her to run down the list of her training mates with at the Wilmington Ice Arena, with coach Priscilla Hill; she mentioned Stephen Carriere, Alex Zahradnicek, Viktor Pfeiffer and Shaun Rogers.

"It's really cool," said Ashley. "Wilmington is unique in that it's a guys' rink. I don't think there's anything else like that in the country. It's pretty inspiring because I'm training with all these guys doing quads, and it pulls me up to their level."

Ooh, does she ever try quads herself?

"I've got quad sal in the harness pretty well down, but since it's the Olympic year, I'd rather stick to things more solid than quads."

And she must inspire the guys in some way, right?

"I hope I inspire them to be graceful and pretty," mused Ashley. "One of my weaknesses when I came to Priscilla was my artistic abilities. We really do all push each other, and I think it's a really healthy training environment."

How is Priscilla?

"She's great," said Ashley. "She's extremely busy. She has a competition every weekend straight for eight weeks. She's a really good match for me -- she can find that balance between being strict and making things fun."

We know from our days hanging out with Priscilla that she always has a house full of animals. What's the current menagerie like? Ashley lives with Priscilla so she knew the roster pretty well.

"It's a zoo -- there are five dogs, five birds, a hamster, two frogs, and I'm sure there's some other room I haven't gone into that has tons more animals in it. Her mom lives here also -- I try my best to help keep things in order."

Sarah spent a few days in Colorado Springs visiting Drew -- details in our next blog -- and while she was there, she sat down with Alexe outside the Ice Hall at the World Arena for a quick chat.

In November, Alexe will compete at Skate America; she heard that she had gotten that plum assignment at the end of August.

"When Michelle Kwan announced that she wouldn't be competing, I knew I was one of the first alternates," she said. "I was really hoping to get it."

Alexe will be leaving for Paris on Tuesday for her first Grand Prix competition, the Trophée Bompard.

"That's going to be exciting too! I want to see the Eiffel Tower, just like everybody. Amber Ruiz, who is going to be competing for France now, is going to show us the museums and take us shopping. I'm really looking forward to the pastry shops!"

We asked Alexe to tell us about her programs and, of course, her costumes.

"My short program is to Cinderella, she said. "The costume is light pink; it's kind of modeled after a tutu, with little gold leaves, and I really like it."

Alexe's long program will be to "On the Town," and she said she and her team are still trying to decide between two or three different costumes. She told us all about the choreography, though.

"The first piece is about going to the city and seeing skyscrapers and everything," she said. "The second part is about seeing somebody and falling in love, and then the third part is basically dancing."

Alexe's brother Todd and twin sister Piper recently left Colorado Springs to train with Elizabeth Punsalan Swallow in Detroit.

"I really miss them a lot," said Alexe sadly. "The house is really quiet. But they really like it out there, and I might go there to visit them after Paris."

Coming up in our next blog, we'll tell you all about our adventures in Colorado. Enjoy the leaves!

Sarah and Drew
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