Michelle Kwan first laced up a pair of ice skates when she was only 5 years old, but soon she would be setting the ice on fire.
After winning nine out of 10 ladies' figure skating competitions in the 1995-1996 season, including the U.S. and World championships, she could do no wrong.
But in 1997, Michelle landed hard. She failed to regain her U.S. title, and missed a combination jump in her short program at the World Championships in Switzerland, costing her the win there. In the locker room afterward, changing into street clothes, Michelle was upset. "I had just lost my second title in a month, "she says, "and it seemed my worst fears [about failing] were coming true. As I was lacing up my boot, the lace snapped and popped back into my face, It just seemed to add insult to injury."
But then she began to laugh. "I could no longer cry over the titles I had just lost, and I couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous and unreal the whole situation was, " she says.
The wake-up call opened up a new perspective for Michelle. "I no longer feared losing--because I had been through it and came out OK--and I gained a much better perspective on skating and competitions. As a result, I am once again able to see my skating for what it is: a sport I love." Today, Michelle realizes that having fun is just as worthy a goal as winning. Still, she's back on top of her sport, nabbing 15 perfect scores out of a possible 18 for artistry in the 1998 U.S. Championships.
As graceful off the ice as on, Michelle, now 17, has volunteered as a national spokesperson for the Children's Miracle Network for three years. She enjoys hosting segments of "CMN Champions" during the annual Children's Miracle Network broadcast in Orlando, and spending time with Miracle children. "They are so brave, so inspirational," she says.
Despite a toe injury that kept her in a cast and off the ice late last year, Michelle was able to compete in the 1998 Winter Olympics this past February in Nagano, Japan. After taking an early lead in the standings, she went home with a silver medal, finishing just behind teammate Tara Lipinski.
Thanks to Tammison Smith for typing this out for us!