Michelle Kwan

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Silver
medal
1998
Nagano
Figure skating
Women's ind. competition
Bronze
medal
2002
Salt Lake City
Figure skating
Women's ind. competition

Michelle Wing Kwan (Chinese: 關穎珊, pinyin:Guān Yǐngshān) (born July 7, 1980) is a Chinese American figure skater who has won 9 U.S. championships, making her one of the most decorated figure skaters in U.S. history.

Picture right: Kwan's reaction after performing a flawless free skate at the 2001 World Championships in Vancouver, Canada.

Biography

Template:ScratchspinImg Kwan has won five World Championships (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2003), the most by anyone in the ladies' division since Carol Heiss (1956 - 1960) with whom she is tied for the most wins by an American. She has won nine United States National Championships (1996, 1998-2005), tying the record for most set by Maribel Vinson-Owen (1928 - 1933, 1935 - 1937). She has also won a silver in the 1998 Nagano Olympics and a bronze in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Among her many accolades, Michelle received the prestigious Sullivan Award in 2001. Kwan has received a combined total of 54 6.0s from her Nationals and Worlds competitions throughout the years.

Born in Torrance, California, Kwan is the third child of Chinese immigrants. She was named after the song from the Beatles called "Michelle". At the age of five her love for figure skating began as she followed after her two older siblings (one who played ice hockey, Ron, and one who figure skated, Karen) onto the ice. Kwan's family moved to Lake Arrowhead, California, in 1991 to intensify her training with Frank Carroll, a leading figure skating coach. At the age of 12 in 1992 Kwan passed a test to become a senior level figure skater despite the disapproval of her coach. In 1993 Kwan finished sixth at her first senior U.S. championships, and later that year she won the 1994 World Junior title.


The Alternate amidst the Scandal

In 1994, Kwan finished second to Tonya Harding at the U.S. championships, which ordinarily would have earned her a spot on the U.S. team to the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. However, that place was instead given to 1993 national champion Nancy Kerrigan, sidelined by an Olympic_Games_scandals (eventually connected to Harding) after a practice session at those championships. The 13-year-old Kwan went to Lillehammer as an alternate. However, Kwan competed at the 1994 World Championships where Kerrigan and Harding did not appear, finishing eighth.

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The Jumping Bean

By the end of the 1994 competitive season, Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan and Oksana Baiul as well as other competitors of the Lillehammer Olympics had left the amateur level for the professional ranks, leaving behind a sport badly damaged by the scandals and ready for a new star to help it regain its stature. As a result of the scandal, the U.S. Championship was vacant for Kwan and others to capture in 1995. While Nicole Bobek captured the gold medal at the U.S. Nationals, Kwan made a mark as a "jumping bean" in the World Championships, landing 7 clean triples and placing 4th.


Development as an Artist

Following 1995, Kwan and her team thought that she should transform herself from a "jumping bean" to a figure skating artist in order for her to emerge as a gold medal Olympic champion. This transformation manifested itself in her new competitive programs, Romanza (short program) and Salome' (free skate), Kwan proved that she was a major contender for the World title. In 1996, Kwan won the U.S. Championships and the World Championships. In the latter event she edged out defending champion Lu Chen from China in a close competition in which both competitors's marks for the free skate included perfect 6.0s.

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In the 1996-97 season, Kwan skated to "Dream of Desdemona" (short program) and "Taj Mahal" (free skate). It was during this year that Michelle Kwan debuted the change of edge spiral in her short program which is still considered her signature move. However, in this season, Kwan struggled with her jumps because she wore new skating boots as a result of an endorsement with a skate company. She fell 3 times in her free skate at 1997 U.S. Nationals and refused to be interviewed with Lipinski and bronze medalist Bobek. She also lost Champion Series Final and World titles to Tara Lipinski that season.

Kwan regained her U.S. title from Lipinski at the 1998 championships, in spite of competing with a toe injury. Many people consider her performances of her Rachmaninoff short program and free skate set to William Alwyn's "Lyra Angelica" at the 1998 U.S. Championships to be the high point of her career from both a technical and artistic standpoint.

Although she was the favorite to win the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, Kwan was out-skated by Lipinski, then 15, with Kwan winning the silver medal. However, Kwan then won the 1998 World Championships, in which Lipinski did not compete. Lipinski's subsequent retirement from eligible skating ended an era of competition for Kwan and Lipinski. Without Lipinski, others stepped up to become her rival.

New Challengers Emerge: Russians and Baby Ballerinas

While Lipinski turned professional shortly after the Olympics in 1998, Kwan continued to compete as an eligible skater. In the 1998-99 season, Kwan skated to "Fate of Carmen" (short program) and "Lamento D'Ariane" (free skate). At the 1999 U.S. Championships, Kwan attained her third title, landing a triple toe loop / triple toe loop combination despite an uncharacteristic fall on her second triple lutz at the end of her program. At the 1999 World Championships, however, Kwan made two major errors in the short program and minor errors in the long program and lost to Maria Butyrskaya. Template:ScratchspinImg

Michelle Kwan's win at the 2000 U.S. Nationals was controversial. Despite a fall in the short program, the judges placed her in the top three in that segment, keeping her in contention for the title. However, she defeated Sasha Cohen, a young skater known as a "baby ballerina," in the long program to win the 2000 Nationals Championship. At the 2000 World Championships, after the short program, Butyrskaya was first with Irina Slutskaya second, while Kwan was in third after a flawed "A Day in The Life" short program. Kwan's fate was not completely in her hands; in order to win the title she would have to win the free skate and have someone else beat Butyrskaya as well. In her free skate to music from the film "The Red Violin", Kwan landed seven triples, including a triple toe loop / triple toe loop combination. This was enough for Kwan to win both the free skate and world title as Butyrskaya finished only third in the free skating. Template:ScratchspinImg

In 2001, while Cohen sat injured, other competitors Sarah Hughes and Angela Nikodinov challenged Kwan for the national title but Kwan again won the U.S. Championships. Similarly, at the 2001 World Championships, Slutskaya, Butyrskaya, Hughes, and Nikodinov, all challenged Kwan for the title. In the short program Kwan was second to Slutskaya, skating to music from the "East of Eden" TV adaptation. Kwan battled back to win the title with her "Song of the Black Swan" long program, executing 7 triples including a triple/triple combination, to break the "odd year curse" that she had experienced at prior World Championships.


A Bittersweet "Fields of Gold"

In the fall of 2001, Kwan and Carroll parted ways. Coachless, Kwan arrived at the 2002 U.S. Championships in Los Angeles with the media's scrutiny over her separation with Carroll and her season's inconsistencies. Proving that she was still a force to contend with, Kwan won the competition with a revived "Rachmaninoff" short program and a new "Scheherazade" program for her free skate. Joining her on the Olympic team were Sasha Cohen (second) and Sarah Hughes (third). The 21-year-old Kwan, along with Russia's Irina Slutskaya, remained the favorites to win the gold medal in the Salt Lake City Olympics. After the short program, Kwan led, followed by Slutskaya, Cohen, and Hughes. In the free skate, a combination of a flawed, pressure-filled performance by Kwan (two-footing her combination and failing on her triple flip), the success of another young phenomenon, 16-year-old Sarah Hughes, saw Kwan receive the bronze medal. During the exhibition gala, Kwan skated a tearful, bittersweet performance to "Fields of Gold". Kwan finished the 2002 season second at the World Championships behind Slutskaya.


Continued Success

Template:ScratchspinImg While the question of Kwan's retirement to the professional level continues to linger, she has continued to compete on the eligible circuit. While a new generation of skaters has begun to emerge and present Kwan with new challenges, she has responded in kind; she has added three more U.S. championships (2003-2005: bringing her consecutive streak to an all-time record eight and total to a shared-record nine) and a fifth World championship (2003) to a list of her victories.

Coached by Scott Williams, Kwan won all phases of every competition she entered in the 2002-2003 competitive season with her programs: the exotic "The Feeling Begins" (short program) and "Concierto de Aranjuez" (free skate). She won the U.S. Championships again and regained her World title.

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In 2003, she hired noted technician Rafael Arutunian as her coach, with whom she has attempted to increase the technical difficulty of her programs. In the 2003-2004 competitive season, she skated again to "The Feeling Begins" for her short program, and "Tosca" for her long program. Again, Kwan won the U.S. Championships. At the 2004 World Championships, after a difficult qualifying round, Kwan was penalized in her short program for going a few seconds overtime. Then, just as she was about to start her free skate, there was a disruption caused by a spectator entering the ice surface, who had to be removed by security staff. In the end, Kwan placed third at the championships behind Shizuka Arakawa of Japan and Sasha Cohen.

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For the competitive season of 2004-2005 for Michelle Kwan skated a long program to the "Bolero" music made famous by Torvill and Dean two decades before, and debuted a new short program "Spartacus." At the U.S. Championships, she won her 9th title, tying the all-time record previously set by Maribel Vinson-Owen. Interestingly, Vinson-Owen coached Frank Carroll who in turn coached Kwan. At the 2005 World Championship, Kwan saw herself seemingly unprepared and ill-experienced in the new Code of Points judging system which had been adopted by the International Skating Union. Many experts said she resisted the change and refused to accept it. Although the new judging system had been used on the Grand Prix competition circuit for the previous two seasons, Kwan had chosen not to compete at those events. Her qualifying program was the worst she had ever skated, and she did not place high enough to skate in the final group for the short program. For the first time since 1995, Kwan finished off the podium at the World Championships, in 4th place.

Looking Ahead

Kwan looks at the experience in the 2005 Worlds competition as a learning experience in the new judging system. She continues to train and has stated that she intends to attempt to qualify for the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.

Competitive History

Kwan's competitive history spans over a decade, as she has been competing at the national level since she was 12 years old. This table shows her record in the U.S., World and Olympic Championships, along with the other skaters whom Michelle has competed against. As of September, 2005, her major wins have all been under the old 6.0 scoring system and she has only competed in one NJS competition.


Competitive Season U.S. Championships World Championships Olympics Programs
1991-1992 Junior Level
9. Michelle Kwan
SP:

LP:

EX:
1992-1993 1-G. Nancy Kerrigan

2-S. Lisa Ervin
3-B. Tonia Kwiatkowski

6. Michelle Kwan
SP:

LP:

EX:
1993-1994 1-G. Tonya Harding / later vacant

2-S. Michelle Kwan

3-B. Nicole Bobek
Senior Level

1-G. Yuka Sato
2-S. Surya Bonaly
3-B. Tanya Szewczenko
8. Michelle Kwan

Junior Level
1-G. Michelle Kwan
2-S. Kristina Czako
3-B. Irina Slutskaya

1-G. Oksana Baiul

2-S. Nancy Kerrigan
3-B. Lu Chen
* Michelle Kwan served
as an alternate to
Tonya Harding and

Nancy Kerrigan
SP: Song of India

FS: East of Eden

EX:
1994-1995 1-G. Nicole Bobek

2-S. Michelle Kwan

3-B. Tonia Kwiatkowski
1-G. Lu Chen

2-S. Surya Bonaly
3-B. Nicole Bobek

4. Michelle Kwan
SP: Yellow River

FS: Rondo Capriccioso

EX: Greensleeves
1995-1996 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Tonia Kwiatkowski

3-B. Tara Lipinski
1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Lu Chen

3-B. Irina Slutskaya
SP: Romanza

FS: Salome

EX: East of Eden
1996-1997 1-G. Tara Lipinski

2-S. Michelle Kwan

3-B. Nicole Bobek
1-G. Tara Lipinski

2-S. Michelle Kwan

3-B.Vanessa Gusmeroli
SP: Dream of Desdemona

FS: Taj Mahal

EX: Winter
1997-1998 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Tara Lipinski

3-B. Nicole Bobek
1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Irina Slutskaya

3-B. Maria Butyrskaya
1-G. Tara Lipinski

2-S. Michelle Kwan

3-B. Lu Chen
SP: Rachmaninoff

FS: Lyra Angelica

EX:
1998-1999 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Naomi Nari Nam

3-B. Angela Nikodinov
1-G. Maria Butyrskaya

2-S. Michelle Kwan

3-B. Julia Soldatova
SP: The Fate of Carmen

FS: Lamento D'Ariane

EX: The Red Violin
1999-2000 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Sasha Cohen

3-B. Sarah Hughes
1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Irina Slutskaya

3-B. Maria Butyrskaya
SP: A Day in The Life

FS: The Red Violin

EX: Hands
2000-2001 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Sarah Hughes

3-B. Angela Nikodinov
1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Irina Slutskaya

3-B. Sarah Hughes
SP: East of Eden

SP2: Rush
FS: Song of The Black Swan
FS2: Miraculous Mandarin
EX:

2001-2002 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Sasha Cohen

3-B. Sarah Hughes
1-G. Irina Slutskaya

2-S. Michelle Kwan

3-B. Fumie Suguri
1-G. Sarah Hughes

2-S. Irina Slutskaya

3-B. Michelle Kwan
SP:Rachmaninoff

FS:Scheherazade

EX: Fields of Gold
2002-2003 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Sarah Hughes

3-B. Sasha Cohen
1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Elena Sokolova

3-B. Fumie Suguri
SP:The Feeling Begins

FS: Concierto de Aranjuez

EX: Fields of Gold
2003-2004 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Sasha Cohen

3-B. Jennifer Kirk
1-G. Shizuka Arakawa

2-S. Sasha Cohen

3-B. Michelle Kwan
SP: The Feeling Begins

FS: Tosca

EX: Fallin'
2004-2005 1-G. Michelle Kwan

2-S. Sasha Cohen

3-B. Kimmie Meissner
1-G. Irina Slutskaya

2-S. Sasha Cohen
3-B. Carolina Kostner

4. Michelle Kwan
SP: Spartacus

FS: Bolero
EX: You Raise Me Up

EX2: This Used To Be My Playground
2005-2006

Key: SP-Short Program, FS-Free Skate, EX-Exhibition Program, 1-G 1st Place Gold Medal, 2-S 2nd Place Silver Medal, 3-B 3rd Place Bronze Medal

Factoids

  • Famed wedding dress designer Vera Wang, who herself was a figure skater, has designed many of Michelle Kwan's costumes.
  • Michelle always wears a good luck necklace that her grandmother gave her.
  • Michelle finished 11th grade with a 3.8 GPA and 12th grade with a 3.9 GPA, for a cumulative high school GPA of 3.61.
  • She had to go behind her then-coach Frank Carroll's back in order to move up to the senior level.
  • Michelle had a pet squirrel when she was younger
  • Her sister Karen also skated competitively at the elite level, finishing 6th at Nationals in 1997.
  • When she first lived at Ice Castle, she lived in the cabin called, "Debi Thomas' Teepee."


Media


Quote

  • "As a child, I'd wonder, 'When I die, will people still remember me 1,000 years later?' And without the gold medal ... Well, the Olympics are the ultimate achievement in my sport. At times I think, 'Why should I push myself all those long hours in the rink?' But then I think, 'How will I ever know how good I could have been?' I want to be the Michael Jordan of my sport." - Kwan, following the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
  • "Work hard, have fun, and be yourself." - Michelle Kwan's motto, appears on publicity cards.


External links

de:Michelle Kwan fi:Michelle Kwan fr:Michelle Kwan it:Michelle Kwan pl:Michelle Kwan