By SUSAN YEH
Hey you guys! :)
I just wanted to share my wonderful experience of meeting Michelle today with all of you: (sorry this is gonna be long)
Today, as all of you know, was the Ladies Free Skate. My volunteer assignment for the Goodwill Games is as a "drug escort." What I do as a drug escort is to notify the skater that he/she was chosen for the test and then follow him/her around until they are done with the interviews and the award ceremony and then escort them to the doping control area. The idea is to not let them out of our sights. Anyways, I did not originally get the assignment for ladies figure skating since the popular assignment was quickly filled by others. But after much begging and harassment :) today my coordinator told me to go to the site and see if they need an extra escort for the night! Needless to say, I am very excited at this point.
So off I go to Nassau Coliseum. It turns out that they did need an extra volunteer tonight so I got to stay! One of the coordinators cut out three pieces of paper and wrote 1, 2, and 3(which stood for the medal placements) on them. She placed them in front of me and asked me to pick numbers randomly. I didn't understand at first, but then she explained that they were going to randomly test two medallists from the ladies and one pair of the ice dancers. So immediately in my mind I am thinking that I need to pick the number 1 for the ladies! So I randomly picked up the first paper and it said "2." So as I reached for the next number I kind of peeked out of desperation at the two papers and saw that one of them looked like it had a "1" and sure enough it did! She then told me to pick again for the ice dancers and I picked 3.
Naturally, I was hoping to be the escort for the number 1 lady. :-) But they told me that that the other two ladies that came earlier already claimed the 2 ladies assignments. So this other girl and I were each assigned to one of the bronze medallists of ice dancing pair. Now all we do is wait. As we finished watching the ice dancers compete we found out(not that it was a surprise) that the Ukrainian team had won the third place. So off we went. On our way out to find them I spotted Michelle's mom taking with two other people. They were basically telling her what a delight Michelle is, blah, blah, blah. She seemed very pleased and smiled the whole time. And then we passed by Elena Berezhnaya. Like the goofball that I am I blurted out "Congratulations!" to her and she smiled and said thank you. OK now off to look for Grushina/Goncharov. We found them standing in the area where the athletes wait to get on the ice. Now our problem arises: they don't speak English! :) We were finally able to tell them that they were chosen and they were really nice about it. But before they went to the doping area all three dance teams got together and took group pictures and chatted with their coaches, etc. When we went back to the media area the Grushina(the guy) asked me to take pictures of them with their coach and friends in front of the curtain with the Goodwill Gamed logo on it. :) Anyways, we were finally able to get them to the doping control room and our duties ended but we were told that we could stick around. So we went out on the ice and found some empty seats on front row center ice and watched the ladies.
I was so nervous when Michelle took the ice! But she seemed so calm and peaceful! Well, I am not gonna talk about her program since all of you saw it on TV already. But she is so enchanting on ice. After she was done they had to send out all 10 of those flower children to collect the flowers and presents! I was holding a bear for Michelle but I decided that I didn't want to throw it out on the ice but rather try to give it to her in person!
Anyways, after we watched the awards ceremony. My friend and I found out that Michelle was going to be at a press conference. So we walked around the backstage area and luckily chanced upon an room labeled "Interview Room." We didn't know whether or not we were allowed in there but we figured it was worth a try. Luckily the lady who was checking Press IDs was looking away or something because we got in and grabbed two chairs and in walked Michelle and Frank! She looked very happy and waited patiently while the reporters interviewed Victoria Volchkolva who was in there first.
Finally it was Michelle's turn. I can't say I remember everything said but I'll try to write down the Q&A's that I can recall.
One of the reporters told her that she skated beautifully tonight and asked her how she felt in the program. Michelle said "the music really helps to lift her spirits when she's not feeling up to it or sad." She then said that she actually felt very serene and calm today. She also said that she is a little disappointed that the program wasn't her best. Falling on the loop really surprised her and going into the salchow she really wanted to nail it but it "blew open."
Another reporter then asked her about her comment on the Jay Leno show about bunions. Michelle laughed and explained to the reporter that "since the boots are so hard when the skaters land it is really hard on the feet. And so what you get are bunions!" She chuckles and looks at Frank and said, "and that's my philosophy on bunions!" laughter. Frank then leans over and repeats Michelle's quote on Leno, "Skaters have the worst looking feet." Michelle laughs and agrees, "Yes, skaters have the worst looking feet-like Karen!" SHe then points to the back of the interview room. Karen and Danny Kwan were actually standing behind me!
Another reporter asked Michelle another question about the program(didn't really hear this one). ANd Michelle said that after she missed the loop and the salchow she was really determined to land the lutz. And she said that it was so great how the crowd was cheering for her, she felt as if they were giving her an extra push. The reporter then asked why she felt determined to land the second lutz. Which I thought was a silly question! But Michelle was very witty and explained that for the second lutz she actually faces Frank right before she takes off. So she knew that if she "misses three jumps in a row, Frank would kill [her]." Frank and Michelle both laugh. They really are so adorable the way they interact.
While commenting on future plans, Michelle again mentions that it would really be a shame to let go of these two programs since they meant a lot to her and the people around her: "especially the short, I really feel that the two programs are one of my bests." She then talks about her trip to Hawaii and how that it would be the first family vacation ever for the Kwans and points out Karen in the back rubbing her hands and laughing. Michelle also joked about getting another tan line.
The next reporter commented that the audience tonight clapped very loudly for her. She then asked Michelle if she thought whether not winning the gold and handling the silver with such style actually attracted more people to her. I thought it was such an awkward question to ask. But Michelle again was great. She first said, "I don't know why they clap so loudly." So modest, I wanted to scream out "because you are the most beautiful skater to ever touch ice!" But of course I didn't. :P Michelle said that maybe it's because people have watched her grow up. From the 1994 season to '98 she has changed a lot and she thinks that people feel as if they know her. She then said that the people are probably right to feel that they know her because through interviews and stuff the public was able to find out about her personality. SHe also says that all the people that come up to her always know exactly what to ask her and say to her and she feels that perhaps they really do know her.
This is pretty much all I remember about the press conference. When the press conference ended, my friend and I ran back to the doping area to meet Michelle there. And on our way back we saw Michelle's mom followed by a bunch of volunteers holding big clear garbage bags of stuffed animals and flowers. Anyways we got to doping control first and when we walked in the room, Maria B. was sitting there with her coach. We sat down and Maria declares that she is ready for the bathroom. She walks in there and in walks Michelle! She is very nice and starts chatting with the coordinators and asked how Maria was doing. :) Soon, Maria walks out with her hand over the cup and an embarrassed look on her face. Apparently she didn't have enough in there! So she sat down. The coordinator asked us to step outside and give the girls some privacy. SO out we went with Frank. I am still in shock that I am actually standing 5 feet away from Frank Carol! But I was too shy to go talk to him. He started chatting with the security guards. One of the guards apparently told Frank how much he adored Michelle. And Frank smiled and said, "WHat some people don't understand about Michelle is that she is not only a great skater she is also a beautiful human being." How sweet! :) So then Frank starts reading the paper and we, the volunteers(who were all awaiting Michelle) chatted amongst ourselves. Suddenly the door opened and Michelle jumps out excitedly with her arms extended and declares, "I am done!" The volunteers immediately crowd around her. I quickly ran in the room and grabbed my bag and present for Michelle. I came out and Michelle was still swamped by the 6 other volunteers so I took out Michelle's book and asked Frank would sign it. He looked surprised at first but then signed it with a smile. Now, Michelle was finally free. I handed her a bear and said, "Michelle, I know you get hundreds of these, but here you go." SHe looked at it and gave me a big smile and thanked me. SHe then signed my book and two other volunteer T-shirts that I had. My friend brought her camera and took a picture of Michelle with me. Finally it was time for Michelle to go. As she walkd by she thanked me again for the bear. I was in heaven! No, I AM in heaven!
So that concludes my Michelle encounter. I hope I didn't bore too many of you. I just had to share. Thanks for listening.
Take care, Susan.
Thanks to Jenny for letting me use this!