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Michelle Kwan

Most-decorated Skater In U.s. History

Many observers were stunned when Kwan announced that she was leaving her longtime coach in October 2001. She had no plans to hire another coach and intended to train and compete on her own, a move that few other skaters had ever attempted. After a stunning performance in the long program at the 2002 U.S. Nationals to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sheherazade," however, Kwan entered the Salt Lake City Olympics once again as the favorite. In first place after her short program, Kwan took the ice midway through the final group of competitors in the free skate. American teammate Sarah Hughes had already completed an astounding program that included two triple-triple jump combinations. Indeed, Hughes's performance contained the highest degree of technical difficulty ever accomplished in the women's free skate. Although her artistry remained intact, a fall on a triple flip jump midway through her program once again dashed Kwan's hope for a gold medal. With Hughes in first place and Russian Irina Slutskaya in second, Kwan had to settle for the bronze medal.

Kwan again gained the public's respect with her grace, dignity, and good humor after her second Olympic loss. She also gained a lucrative contract with the Disney Corporation as a spokesperson and performer. Still in the amateur ranks, Kwan announced in 2002 that she would return to the U.S. Nationals in 2003 and perhaps to the World Championship as well. "I've been very fortunate," Kwan told Sharon Ginn of the Boston Globe in November 2002 about her decision to keep competing, "I've never felt stronger or better. I haven't reached that point yet, so until that time I guess I'll keep competing until I know when to stop. When do you actually know [when to give it up]? The worst thing I can do is regret." Off the ice, Kwan decided to take time away from her studies at the University of California-Los Angeles to fulfill her endorsement contracts and to spend more time with her boyfriend, Brad Ference, who played with the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers.

The most decorated American figure skater ever, Kwan entered the 2002-2003 season as a six-time National Champion, four-time World Champion, and two-time Olympic medalist. At the 2003 USFSA National Championship in Dallas, Texas, Kwan took a gold medal, her seventh gold medal at a National Championship.

Although the Olympic gold medal still eludes her, Kwan did not rule out making a bid for the 2006 U.S. Olympic team for the Turin Winter Games. Such drive and dedication are typical of Kwan's outlook and have indeed made her into one of the most respected and admired athletes of her generation. In overcoming her losses at the Olympics and emerging as an even more popular personality, Kwan has seemed to transcend her sport. Embodying the ideals not just of figure skating but of athleticism and good sportsmanship in general, Kwan was honored with the James E. Sullivan Award as Outstanding Amateur Athlete by the Amateur Athletic Union in 2002.

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Famous Sports StarsFigure SkatingMichelle Kwan - Started Skating With Sister, Chronology, Unexpected Trip To 1994 Olympics, Awards And Accomplishments, Related Biography: Skating Coach Frank Carroll - SELECTED WRITINGS BY KWAN: