Article on January 15, 2002, on the 2002 Olympics site

Kwan captures flame in Beverly Hills

By Kimi Puntillo

Crowd chants ‘Go Michelle! Go U.S.A.!’


Olympian Michelle Kwan, middle, clowns around on the torchbearer shuttle bus with Shiri Gumbiner, left, and Jenna Recupero on the way to their starting points on the relay.

Image: Shiri Gumbiner, Michelle Kwan, Jenna Recupero

         FLAG WAVING CROWDS CHEERED, “Go Michelle! Go U.S.A.!” as Kwan, who hopes to capture her first Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake City, ran down a road illuminated by the flame and white lights hung from three-story high palm trees.
       Among the spectators were friends and family, including Kwan’s sister Karen, who sprinted alongside her younger sibling during her 0.2 of a mile relay leg in Beverly Hills.
       A first-time Olympic Torchbearer, Kwan said she was most impressed by her fellow flame carriers. Among them was 12-year-old Shari Gumbiner of Brentwood, Calif., representing the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Gumbiner received the Olympic Flame from Kwan. Gumbiner, a lover of figure skating, is battling leukemia, which she contracted after chemotherapy for bone cancer.
  I’m Michelle and I do triple jumps which is nothing compared to what you guys do.
U.S. Figure Skating Champion
         “We shared stories on the torchbearer shuttle, telling each other who we are and what we went through to get here,” said Kwan, a winner of six medals at World Championships. “I felt like — I’m Michelle and I do triple jumps, which is nothing compared to what you guys do. Shari has the strength of a 300-pound weightlifter.”
       Cradling the Olympic Torch in her arms after her run, Kwan expressed surprise at its size. “I saw Muhammad Ali light the cauldron in Atlanta on TV and it didn’t look so big. It’s half the size of my body!” exclaimed the 5-foot-2-inch world champion.
       Kwan, 21, plans to keep the 33-inch long torch as a memento. “It will be something I’ll treasure, something my grandchildren will be able to touch.”

Michelle Kwan carries the Olympic Flame days after winning the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships.

       Kwan’s run with the torch comes on the heels of winning her sixth national title at U.S. Figure Skating Championships last Saturday. She scored two perfect 6.0s in her long program after an uneven season in which she split with her longtime coach, Frank Carroll, in October.
       Her victory guarantees her a spot at the Olympics along with Sasha Cohen, 17, and Sarah Hughes, 16, who finished second and third respectively, at the competition in L.A.
       In her attempt to earn an Olympic gold medal, the only major title she’s yet to win, Kwan’s chief competition will come from Russia’s Irina Slutskaya, considered the favorite in the Salt Lake Games.
       “My Olympic dream is to skate my heart out,” Kwan said.

Kwan ran with the torch on Santa Monica Boulevard on a day packed with celebrity torchbearers that included fellow figure skaters Timothy Goebel, who also made the Olympic team, and Angela Nikodinov. Other Olympians included Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene and Julie Foudy.
       Movie stars Goldie Hawn, Martin Sheen and Arnold Schwarzenegger also carried the torch.


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