(Narrator is always a
During the taping
Michelle is wearing a black long-sleeved V- necked top with chandelier
earrings (the same ones she wore in her fluff pieces for 04 Nats).
She is sitting in a room with red walls, and some flowers to her
Clips of recent practices
with Michelle wearing black
leggings and a black halter top with white piping.
Growing up, when you imagine winning, you always imagine being on
top of the podium.
Clips of Michelle
skating as a child, winning 96 Worlds, falling at 97 Nationals LP,
and end pose to FOG are shown.
Kwan has grown up in front of our eyes. From child prodigy, to exuberant
teenager, to beautiful young woman; in victory, and in defeat; she
has always shown the heart of a champion.
(Clip of spiral from This Time Around is shown) She's just
amazing, just amazing. You know, you just never underestimate that
young lady. She's got incredible strength.
N: Michelle Kwan.
Now, on Biography.
[Biography opening title]
More recent practice
clips are shown.
Dick Button: A
great skater is someone who leaves the sport different and better
because he or she was in it, and I think that's--Michelle has done
PF: She is just
phenomenal; she's been so steady and been on top for...over ten
Brian Boitano: To
be in the building when she skates really well is a magical thing.
It's a very magical thing, and she's definitely one of the greats
in my mind.
Practice clips are
N: She is a legend
in her sport. One of the most decorated skaters in history, yet
the one prize she wants most has eluded her so far, the prize that
she has dreamt of since she was a little girl.
MK: I have a different
perspective now than when I was seventeen, and I prefer this perspective
because you enjoy it so much more. And you realize at the end of
the day it's not just about that six-minute set. I was at the Olympics.
It was the everyday hard work; it's the everyday pleasure that you
get to be on the ice. So when people say, "Oh, you're staying in
to win the Olympics", it's like, "Yeah, I'm staying in...to try
to win the Olympics." And I'm staying in just because I love the
sport and just because it's what I want to do.
N: (Clips of
Opening moves from Salome, 96 Worlds podium with Irina Slutskaya,
and Chen Lu, skating to Song of India and Rondo are shown.) Michelle
Kwan was a child phenom. By 1996, the precocious fifteen-year-old
was already the world champion. With only two years to go until
the '98 Olympics, Michelle was the early favorite for the Olympic
gold. Michelle appeared to be one of those rarest of child
stars, who actually loved what she was doing. There was no pushy
stage parent waiting in the wings.
Pictures of Michelle
as a child are shown.
MK: My parents
said, "You can quit any time you want." My parents really gave me
a choice. The sessions used to be, like, $5.75. My dad said, "Here's
$5.75. You can either go to the ice rink and pay for it, or you
can go to, you know, a liquor store and buy some candy. What do
you want to do?" And I took the money and went to the rink. And
that made me realize that the money...was coming out of my hand.
N: By 1996, it
looked like Michelle would sail through the next two years and collect
her Olympic gold. (pics of MK on podium at 96 Worlds, and clips
of her being photographed by the bay are shown.) But the next
year, things started to go wrong. She grew taller, and had to cope
with her changing body. (Clips of 97 Nats, falling, tears on
podium are shown.) To make matters worse, she was having trouble
with her skates. In the same year, Michelle lost both her National
and World titles to the new kid on the block, Tara Lipinski. (clip
of Tara on podium)
Clip of Michelle and
Frank in K&C after 97 Nationals is shown
And, you know, your first lutz...
MK: Why did I
chicken out? I
was working hard, but just--the focus was very negative for me.
I was very uptight. (Picture from 97 Nationals, clips of Michelle
and Frank on the ice are shown.)
N: With just a
year to go until the Nagano Olympics, Michelle found herself in
the role of the underdog. Then, just two months before the US Nationals,
which would double as the Olympic trials, X-rays revealed a stress
fracture in her left foot. Just weeks before the biggest competition
of her life, Michelle was in a cast. (Clip of Michelle reading
a book on the couch, wearing her cast is shown)
and Michelle with her cast walking together outside their Lake Arrowhead
home) They told me that I had to take at least three weeks off.
And I said, "I can't be in a cast. I have pain here, but isn't there
something you can do?" I've worked so many years to be at the Olympics
and this is my chance, and I can't practice and I might not even
qualify. So when I went to Philadelphia for the National Championships,
and it was two weeks after I had gotten my cast off...
is shown running on treadmill) But Michelle could be at her
most dangerous when people underestimated her.
PF: When you least
expect it, when you think, "Oh, everybody's counting her out", then
she'll just go out there and wow everybody, and we'll all just be
sitting there going, "I just can't believe what we just saw!" She
is just amazing, just amazing. You know, you just never underestimate
that young lady. (picture of Michelle at 98 Nationals is shown.)
N: (Clips 6.0s
for Lyra, Olympic stadium, Lyra end pose, and Tara kissing her medal
are shown during this voice over.) At the Olympic trials in
Philadelphia, Michelle was untouchable. And the next month at the
Olympics, she again skated flawlessly. But Tara Lipinski, equally
flawless, snatched the gold in a close decision.
MK: It was hard
because I had thought it was good enough to win. I came home with
the silver. There was nothing I could do, I just -- I was really,
really happy and thrilled about my performance, and some people
think that, you know, I lost the gold, but I felt more that I had
won the silver.
N: (clips and
pics from 98 Olympics: MK with medal, podium with Tara and Chen
Lu are shown.) Lipinski won by a very narrow margin, and many
experts thought Michelle had deserved the gold. But her graciousness
in the face of defeat won her even more admirers. (Michelle is
shown signing autographs) Michelle chose not to turn pro. She
would continue to compete against the best in the world. She was
staying in for another four years. She would go for the Olympic
gold again in Salt Lake City in 2002.
BB: I was like,
"Oh my God, you're gonna go for another--that's gonna be four years,
that's gonna be so long!" But she's a great competitor, it's what
she likes to do, I think that she would feel lost if she didn't
have the competition. She lives by something that competition gives
to her. (more practice clips are shown.)
from 99-02 are shown: The Red Violin, 02 Nationals podium with
Sasha Cohen and Sarah Hughes, Michelle with Olympic torch) For
the next four years, Michelle reigned atop her sport, winning an
incredible four out of four National titles and three out of four
World titles. She headed into the 2002 Games in her home country
as the reigning World champion.
Vera Wang: The
pressure was overwhelming that entire week in Salt Lake prior to
her actually taking the ice that night. And I think most people
could not even have taken the ice if they had that amount of pressure
N: Michelle made
just one mistake, (shown falling on flip during long program
at Olympics) but her younger U.S. teammate, Sarah Hughes, was
perfect. (Olympic podium picture is shown) Four years after
getting silver in Nagano, she took bronze in Salt Lake City.
PF: (Clip shown
of Michelle wiping away tears on the podium at 02 Olympics) My
heart really broke for Michelle. Just broke. I mean, I'm sitting
in the crowd and, you know, it was just so sad to see that happen
again. It just -- I don't know how she can, you know, pull herself
back up and keep on competing after she's, you know, gone through
these heartbreaks. But I think all these heartbreaks are making
More recnt practice
clips are shown.
N: At a stage
of her career where most champions would retire from Olympic skating,
Michelle chose to go on testing herself in the crucible of competition,
placing herself under pressure, to see what would come out.
pose 04 Nationals is shown) I don't think that Michelle's
skating is about medals. I think it's about challenging herself
and scaring herself to death. I think she thrives on competition.
VW: She's not
afraid to take a chance. And she's not afraid to be a warrior.
N: One year after
Salt Lake City, Michelle came back to the Worlds and faced all challengers,
and won again. (Clip of Michelle holding flag and wearing gold
medal at 03 Worlds is shown.) No woman in the sport's modern
era has more World titles than Michelle Kwan, but she continues
to pursue the one dream that has eluded her so far.
(Clips from practice
and of Michelle competing in a white and purple dress as a child,
pics of Michelle and her parents at the Great Wall of China, and
Danny and clip of Danny and Estella in the kitchen are shown.) Michelle
Kwan has always been a hard worker. It was a quality instilled in
her by her parents, immigrants from China and Hong Kong who stressed
the importance of hard work. The Kwans came to the US in the 1970's,
seeking a better life for the next generation.
Karen Kwan: When
my grandparents first came over, they worked at a restaurant for
a couple of years before they made enough money to buy the property
and start the restaurant. (Pics are shown of the Golden Pheasant
and pics of Michelle on the wall)
MK: (pic of
Michelle and Danny taken around 1999 is shown) I remember talking
to my father about when he came to the United States, and he had
absolutely nothing in his pocket. And having that sort of feeling--going
somewhere, being scared, but being ambitious and being a hard worker--you
can get very far.
N: The Kwans settled
in southern California. (Several pics of Michelle, Karen and
Ron as young children are shown.) Michelle's father worked
for the phone company. Her mother stayed at home with their three
children. Michelle and her siblings grew up speaking Cantonese and
eating many of their meals at the family-owned Chinese restaurant.
Skating started as a lark.
Ron Kwan: She
gets on the ice and, you know, barely could even walk around the
rink, but she loved it. Pretty soon, she was jumping around, doing
spins...You can say that I was probably her first coach. I was the
first one to kind of walk her around the rink a little bit and it
didn't take long before she started showing me how to skate.
N: Michelle and
her older sister Karen fell in love with figure skating right from
the start. (Cute picture of young Michelle and Karen in matching
American Flag skating dresses is shown.)
KK: We used to
skate early, early in the morning, so we would just sleep in our
tights and sleep in our little outfits, and roll out of bed and
get in the car. We'd wake up with each other and go to the rink
with each other and spend the whole day with each other and as we
got older, we would even compete together. And when we skated together,
it was just--I mean, it was just so nice to have your best friend,
you know, looking over and saying, "Oh, you're doing this wrong"
or "You're doing that wrong" or "Why don't we have a competition;
let's do...see who can do the most double axels?"
Clips of young Michelle
in the white and purple dress are shown.
N: What started
as a hobby quickly became a passion.
MK: About eight.
Eight and ten. That's when we got really serious, like "We could
be good at this. Yeah, we could, we could go to the Olympics!" (laughs)
N: Once the girls
got serious about competing, they rearranged their entire lives
so they could train four or five hours a day.
MK: We had a really
hectic schedule. We would skate at three o'clock in the morning.
We would get at least three or four sessions in before going to
school at, like, nine forty-five in the morning. After school we'd
go straight to the rink, and then we would go to my grandparents'
restaurant and have dinner and then rush home and then try to catch
maybe thirty minutes of TV if we were lucky and then go to sleep.
And then start all over again the next day.
N: (More clips
of young Michelle in the white and purple dress are shown.) More
hours on the ice meant more coach's fees and more ice time. It all
added up. The Kwans didn't realize it at first, but they had started
down a path that would eventually lead them into serious financial
KK: My mom had
to work a second job, and my dad was working, you know, a lot of
hours during the day just to support us.
MK: I have pictures
of, you know, I've got holes in the tights and I've got hand-me-downs
of, like, a figure skating little outfit, and, you know, (starting
to laugh more and more) little rips and holes and gloves with
holes... I mean, we were just lucky to be on the ice and have a
coach. I just remember--growing up we would save every penny. We
would have a five-gallon jug. Every single penny had to go into
that jug, and we'd buy groceries with that money, and...I remember
going to school and all my friends' parents had really nice cars
and my dad had this really beat-up blue car that he'd just drive
us to school. And I'd be like, (whispers) "Dad, can you,
like--" And I didn't want to hurt his feelings because I knew that
I wasn't very (laughs) proud of the car; but I'd tell him,
"Dad, it's okay, you can just drop us off back here; it's all right",
because all of my friends were all waiting out there...
N: As Karen and
Michelle got better at skating, the costs skyrocketed. (Clips
are shown of Karen skating in a peach dress, Michelle and family
cheering for her) There were more lessons, costs of traveling
to competitions, and buying costumes and customized skates (Clip
of Michelle skating in blue dress is shown.)
Danny Kwan: In
the beginning, I thought I can afford it, but later on then, I got
deeper, and I saw, "Oh God, it's expensive."
Clip of Michelle in
pink East of Eden dress is shown.
N: At one point,
there was not even enough money to buy a family Christmas tree.
MK: So there was
a contest at school, and if you can thread popcorn, the longest
string of popcorn, you win a tree. A little miniature tree with
little decorations. And I looked at the tree, I was like, "Oh, I
have to win this", because my sister and I, like, begged
my parents to get a Christmas tree and never got one. So in one
minute, I swear my thread of popcorn was, like, from here to, like,
San Francisco! And I was just...had my eye set on that tree, and...I
won that Christmas tree and I took it home. So, after school, my
Dad came to pick me up and I said, "Dad, look!" It was a very, very
special Christmas because we actually had presents under a Christmas
tree (Picture shown of Michelle and Karen posing by the tree
in their matching skating dresses).
N: (Clip of
Michelle skating in blue dress is shown.) Ultimately, Michelle's
parents sold their home in upscale Palos Verdes to help finance
the girls' skating.
So I think we better, you know, sold the house and then get a small
N: The day came
when the Kwans could no longer keep up with the cost of keeping
two daughters in elite skating, which soared to over $50,000 a year
(Picture of young Karen and Michelle in skating dresses is shown.)
MK: At that point
we're...almost in debt.
DK: (Many clips
of Michelle skating in the white and purple dress are shown.) I
talked to Karen and I talked to Michelle too at the same time and
I said, "You know what? If you want to skate, maybe you don't get
the lesson for a while. I think you can practice what you learn
in the past, because I can't afford to pay for it no more." Because
I don't want to, you know, put the whole family in jeopardy.
N: Michelle Kwan's
father wanted to support his daughters' dreams, but his bank balance
had reached zero. He could no longer afford to pay for lessons.
MK: That was tough,
because you go to a competition and there's your father standing
next to the rink, next to the boards, and--whereas other skaters
had the coach.
N: (pics of
Michelle with a trophy and practicing are shown.) That season,
ten-year-old Michelle had her best regional competition ever, attracting
the attention of a talent scout who offered both Kwan girls a scholarship
to the world-famous Ice Castle International Training Center. (clips
of Ice Castle signs and Danny watching Michelle practice are shown.)
But Ice Castle was in Lake Arrowhead, California, a two-and-a-half-hour
drive from the family home. So Michelle's father made a five-hour
round-trip commute each day to stay with the girls, while her mother
remained in LA with the girls' older brother, Ron.
showing the cabins at Ice Castle are shown.) We just moved everything
from our house into this little tiny cottage that had, you know,
a tiny little bathroom and a bunk bed and a big bed all within one
room, no kitchen or anything like that. It was really, really interesting
being in a facility where people ate and slept figure skating.
N: The two sisters
would now train with one of the most sought-after coaches in the
world, Frank Carroll (photos of Michelle and Frank are shown.)
MK: Working with
Frank Carroll, this famous, famous coach--it was such an amazing
place to train. It was like a serious rink, it was there because
people wanted to be the best, they want to go to the Olympics, and
they wanted to win. So that was, like, the atmosphere that I wanted.
of Michelle standing in front of the Olympic rings outside the Olympic
Training Center is shown.) I think she was about maybe eleven
years old, and I was amazed. I mean, she had incredible spring in
her legs, and she had great energy and vitality. She was awkward
and, you know, wore ill-fitted clothes, and just had raw talent
just coming out her ears. And I mean, you'd have to be blind not
to recognize it.
N: After one year
under Carroll's tutelage, eleven-year-old Michelle finished ninth
in the '92 National Junior Championships.
(clips of Michelle and Frank, and Michelle competing are shown.)
This was a little kid who obviously had a lot of energy and
was in a big hurry. Frank Carroll goes out of town for the weekend,
Frank's her coach, he's her mentor, he's in charge of every part
of her skating life. Michelle, not even twelve years old yet, tells
her dad that Frank said it was okay, and they go and they take what
is called the senior test. Michelle takes that test, but this all
occurred while Frank was away for the weekend. And you can imagine
his surprise when he returned and said, "You did what?"
FC: And I came
back and found out that she had done that, and I was absolutely,
stark raving furious. What is done is done, you have to move on,
and I just said, "Well, Frank, you can't go back and change this,
it's happened. Now what?"
shots of Michelle and Frank, early senior competition pics, 94
Nationals podium with Tonya Harding, EOE, Peter Pan and Song of
India are shown.) The next season, twelve-year-old Michelle
astonished the skating world by qualifying for the 1993 US Senior
Nationals and placing 6th. One year later, she was second at Nationals.
That summer, after her first Worlds, she went on tour with the older
skaters, bringing her Mom along as a chaperone.
BB: I don't want
to watch any skating when I'm on the road, but I would go out and
watch her every night, because I really loved that she had this
soul. (clip of Michelle skating to Peter Pan is shown)
N: After a summer
on tour, Michelle finished second at the '95 Nationals. The next
month, she would skate a perfect program at Worlds, landing more
triples than any other skater in the competition. (Clips from
95 Worlds long program are shown.) And yet, she finished fourth.
MK: I really looked
young. I had no makeup. And that was, like, my statement. Because
I didn't need makeup; it was all about my skating! And I landed
all my jumps perfectly, and...when I placed fourth, I knew that
something had to change. If I had skated my best and still ended
up fourth, no medal, I needed to do something. The judges were telling
CB: Michelle Kwan
should have easily been in the medals, and instead was fourth, and
you could make a strong case that she should have won that
World Championships. But instead, what was happening was the judges
were clearly saying, "She looks too young. She's a little jumper,
and that's all she is."
FC: The plan shifted
into, "How do I make this little, awkward, wonderfully talented
girl into a majestic, beautiful skater?"
Several clips of Michelle
competing from 1993-1995 are shown.
N: So in the fall
of 1995, Frank Carroll turned to choreographer Lori Nichol to help
him transform fifteen-year-old Michelle Kwan. Michelle was to portray
Salome on the ice.
FC: I sat Michelle
down and explained who Salome was, that she was exactly her age,
and how she was very provocative, and how she got the attention
of the king, and how it ended up with the head of John the Baptist
on a plate. And her eyes opened up and she said, "Wow! Cool!" And
so I thought, "Great! This is wonderful." But then there was Danny
DK: I'm kind of
old-fashioned, you know... I just don't like to see my girl put
the makeup on when she was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old.
MK: My dad's like,
"Makeup! (gasps) What are you talking about makeup? You can't
wear makeup! It'll...uh, it'll get in your way when you're concentrating
on a jump!"
FC: To portray
this provocative role, she would have to look the part. She'd have
to wear a costume that was provocative, she'd have to wear the makeup,
and she was a very traditional Chinese little girl from a traditional
Chinese family, and she never wore makeup. So it was a sell, because
I had to say, "Look. Michelle's, you know, very, very, nice, young
girl, innocent girl. Girls her age, you know, dance in New York
in the ballet. They wear makeup, they portray all these parts. It
doesn't mean anything; they're just doing an act."
KK: It took a
little while for my parents to sort of agree to it. After that,
it was still "no makeup off the ice".
N: But a new look
was only part of the new image. More important was the transformation
happening to Michelle herself.
from Salome,96 Nationals: skating, podium are shown.) I really
learned a lot in learning how to feel the music, as if you were
performing with it, instead of just going out there and (gradually
talking faster and faster) skating and jumping and skating and jumping
and spinning and...And so in '96, I came out and I had makeup and
I skated Salome and I really got into the character and...really
very dramatic and...people didn't recognize me. That was, that was
N: Skating the
Salome program, Michelle claimed her first National title in 1996.
She headed to Worlds determined to beat the favorite, Lu Chen.
CB: (pic of
Chen Lu at 96 Worlds is shown) At those Worlds, Lu Chen skated
first, and got a few sixes, and Michelle Kwan and Frank Carroll,
her coach, were hidden away in one of their cubby-holes and they
thought they couldn't hear anything, it was, like, soundproof, except
they heard the 6.0's coming in from the public address system.
FC: Michelle turned
to me and said, "I don't think I can beat that." And I had about,
maybe, ten seconds to say something to her that would turn her around
and make her believe, "Yes, you can beat that, and you can win this
championship." And I said to her, "Yes, her second mark was 6.0's
and she's a wonderful artistic skater, but you didn't listen to
the first mark. It was all 5.8's." I said, "They've left that 5.9
for you. You know you can do this, you know you've beaten her this
year already at Skate America, you know you're better. So believe
you can do this." (clip of K&C after Worlds performance of
Salome is shown)
N: Michelle got
6.0's of her own, and took the title. (Salome clip) At fifteen,
she was now officially the best skater in the world. Overnight,
fifteen-year-old Michelle Kwan had become world-famous. Her life
changed dramatically. She began earning thousands of dollars a night
as a headliner on tour.
[Clip: (Michelle getting
ready to take the ice at COI)
Announcer: She is the
1996 World Champion: Michelle Kwan!]
Young as she was, she
suddenly found she was a role model to others, (show clips of
Michelle talking with children at a hospital) yet somehow life
at the top was harder than expected. Now, her every move was scrutinized.
She was growing up under a microscope.
FC: I don't know
if Michelle felt different after becoming world champion. It was
the way other people perceived her and treated her that was so different.
MK: Once you hit
the top, it's like, "Where do I go but down?" I worried a lot, and
I had a really hard time concentrating. My body changed a lot, like
every girl does, and, you know, the media, it's like "Oh, it's her
body changing. She's falling on her triple lutz because of her weight
(Michelle falling at 97 Nationals) and, you know, she's growing
and turning into a woman and"--I'm like, "This is really embarrassing!"
N: After becoming
world champion, Michelle's father had signed a deal for his daughter
with a company that made skates, but Michelle couldn't adjust to
the new skates. She headed to the 1997 Nationals to defend her title
[Clip: (97 Nationals
DB: Triple toe,
double toe, and--
DB: --then a fall
off the end of it...]
BB: I remember
going backstage--I can see it right now in front of me--and she
was in the distance and I looked over at her and she looked at me
and her eyebrows, you know, wrinkled and she started crying, so
I went over to her and I just hugged her.
N: That night,
Michelle left an opening for her rivals, and Tara Lipinski stepped
through. (Clips of Tara skating and on podium at 97 Nationals
PF: Tara Lipinski
was just driven, and I'd never seen a little girl quite like
that before. The minute I saw her on the ice, I could tell that
she was not intimidated about anything, and she was just, you know,
just there, to show off.
N: A few weeks
later in Lausanne, Switzerland, Michelle lost her World title to
CB: So now Tara
Lipinski is the reigning National and World champ, and stealing
those titles from Michelle Kwan, who had them in '96. It's a real
defined--two defined resumes, certainly. You've got Michelle Kwan,
and then Tara Lipinski, and now they're both converging, they're
just going to meet in this incredibly intense 1997-1998 Olympic
N: Less than a
year before the '98 Olympics, Michelle needed to reinvent herself
CB: Coming off
of the '97 season and all of the trouble that Michelle had, she's
just cruisin' along. I mean, we're--everything, all systems go,
through that year, heading into the '98 Nationals. And--boom--the
word comes that she's gotten a stress fracture, and that she's got
a cast on her leg, and that she's out (pics of Michelle with
cast are shown.)
KK: Michelle is
sort of a fish out of water if she's not on the ice. I think that
when she had that cast on and she was told not to skate for five
weeks that she didn't know what to do with herself. I think, knowing
that the Olympic trials were coming up, you're in a cast, and you
can't get on the ice, it was sort of one of those nightmares that
you have, and you can't seem to wake yourself up out of it.
FC: When she finally
got off the cast, the first time she got out there and skated, she
burst into tears and came back to me and said, "I don't think I
can do this. I don't think I can do this. I can't put any weight
on it, I'm weak, and I don't think this is gonna work."
N: Ready or not,
she arrived in Philadelphia in January for the Olympic trials.
MK: I went to
Philadelphia, just--no expectations. I let loose and just had fun.
Several clips and
pics of Lyra from 98 Nationals, Karen in tears after Michelles
skate, and 6.0s in the K&C are shown.
PF: And I think
you really saw the joy of Michelle come through. She was just alive,
she was just, like, floating over the ice. She wasn't skating on
the ice; she was floating. And you could tell she loved this program;
you could tell it was just a part of her. And she brought the house
dB: I think there's
just a quality there of completeness and openness and welcoming-ness
to her skating, and that's a quality that I haven't seen too often.
MK: It all came
from the heart, and that was the one thing that everybody strives
to do, is just to skate from the heart.
N: Michelle was
on top of her sport again. Tara Lipinski finished a distant second.
Michelle was heading for the Nagano Olympics as the odds-on favorite.
MK: Well, I was
glad that I had the time in between Nationals and the Olympics to
get myself prepared as best as I could. And I still had pain in
my left foot, in my stress fracture, and it didn't heal 100%.
clips are shown) The pressure on an Olympic favorite is enormous,
but it was nothing compared to the pressure Michelle was putting
on herself to realize her dream.
MK: It was either
win or die, and I had that mentality going into the Olympics, and
I was like, "I gotta win, I gotta win, I gotta win."
PF: The Olympics
are just so different. It's a very different competition, and the
pressure is enormous. And going there as the favorite is even more
BB: (pic of
Brian and Michelle) I remember her asking me questions about
what it was like to win the Olympics. "What was it like?", you know,
and she never asked me that kind of stuff.
pics and clips of Rach at 98 Olympics are shown.) In Nagano,
her focus was total. Michelle won the short program; Tara Lipinski
was second. Michelle was one performance away from Olympic gold.
MK: How could
I describe the Olympics? You work and you visualize every single
moment that you're going to be at the Olympics. When that day comes,
it's just unbelievable, you're--step into the rink, and... (pic
from 98 Rach is shown) The first time I skated over the Olympic
rink, I think I started crying. It's so emotional, because you just--yeah,
you visualize every second. You're there, and you're skating, performing,
and (gasps) here it is...it's like...the stage is set.
FC: My experience
with Michelle at the Olympics...The Olympics are a very, very important
thing to her, to the point that she almost tightens up when the
time comes because she probably wants it so bad. I felt that Michelle
was tight that night before she took the ice.
Montage of several
pictures from Lyra Angelica are shown.
N: She was nervous,
but her willpower was astonishing. Under the greatest pressure of
her young life, seventeen-year-old Michelle Kwan was simply perfect.
MK: I just remember
coming off the ice. I was crying, I just was overwhelmed. And I
guess the emotions that were going through my mind and my body was...a
sense of release, (pic of Michelle crying in the K&C at
98 Olympics is shown) a sense of...I tried so hard to be in
the best shape of my life. Didn't make any mistakes. I did this,
I did everything I possibly can, and it all happened.
BB: Well, after
she skated, I thought, "She won, she won, thank God, she won", you
know, like a big sigh of relief. Then Tara came on. (Photo of
Tara from her Rainbow Olympic LP) Tara's moment happened to
be that night as well, and it's almost like if you were to rewrite
the history books, it's like--two performances like that shouldn't
have happened in one night. But they did.
Several pics from
Rach, Lyra, and the Podium at 98 Olympics are shown.
It was a solid performance. She would have won a lot of other Olympics.
It will be debated, because they were both good performances, you
know, but it was Tara's night. It was just a great rivalry that
went Tara's way.
works hard. Everybody wants to win. But there's only one...one--one
CB: It was one
of the more remarkable human efforts, for Michelle Kwan to handle
herself as she did in Nagano the moments after she had not won the
gold and the press conference occurred. There she is, her eyes are
still puffy from having cried, and Tara Lipinski is in this giddy
dreamworld that you can only imagine, you know, just...kid has just
won the Olympic gold medal and no one can believe it. And she handled
herself very well--Tara did. But the question, the rivalry question
came up, very quickly: What do you two think of the other? And Tara
giddily said, "I didn't watch Michelle skate, but I know she did
great", and, you know, Tara just gave the answer you would expect
from a teenager who's in some other world. And Michelle Kwan took
the microphone and very quietly paused for a moment and then said,
"Tara, I like you." (98 Olympics Podium pic with MK, TL, and
Chen Lu is shown.)
KK: Michelle called
from Japan probably about thirty minutes after the results and everything
and I remember the sound of her voice, and, gosh, that was so tough.
I think that was probably one of the hardest moments that I have
because she wanted it so badly and I know that she had skated her
heart out. (Michelle waving
with her Silver medal is shown.)
MK: Getting the
silver was--it was tough, because I thought, "How could I do--I
always--My dream was to win, my dream was to win the gold. Not the
silver, I want to get the gold!" (Standing on Oly podium
with hand over heart) I just realized, when I got so, like,
life is just as good winning the silver. It doesn't make me a better
person if I had won the gold. It doesn't make me any different,
finishing second at Nagano seemed to make Michelle Kwan even more
popular with the public. The next month, Tara Lipinski retired,
while Michelle went on to the '98 Worlds and captured her second
World title. At only seventeen, another Olympic bid was physically
possible. It was a question of motivation.
KK: After the
Olympics, I think it took a while for her to get back on her feet.
It was just a very, very emotional time for her. It took her probably
a year or two to start feeling like she could do it.
N: Michelle was
a competitor at heart, and she would keep on competing. She would
stay in for another four years, but she would do it on her own terms.
So, just months after Nagano, she made an unusual decision for a
skating champion. She was going to go to college. She enrolled at
UCLA in the fall of 1999. (Short clips of UCLA campus is shown.)
MK: I just decided
I want to experience going to school, being in the dorms--just that
whole atmosphere. And it was incredible because it made me realize,
you know, skating is so small. They just, like, "Oh yeah, are you
still competing? Are you doing, are you still doing that, that kind
of, little thing, that little sport you're doing?" And it made--it
put everything in perspective.
N: (99 Nationals
Podium is shown.) Michelle won the 1999 US title and finished
second at Worlds, but even that minor misstep led some in the skating
world to question whether she still had a champion's mettle. She
would answer her critics at the 2000 Worlds in Nice.
MK: I just remember
the talk, that "Aw, Michelle, she should just hang up her skates
and turn professional," (Layback from Red Violin is shown)
but I felt in my heart that I could still, I could still win.
I had worked really, really hard, and just watching the tapes, I
remember, I had this look in my eyes, and just--just, like, fierce,
like, (scowling) look, like--it was actually not attractive,
but I was like (very silly face) "Grrrrr!" just as if I was
holding, like (mimes holding a javelin) a, like--I don't
know--like, an arrow or something that I was going to toss--I was
like, "Aaaaah!"--"Attack" was my word.
N: (SOTBS clips
including: ending, and 00 Worlds podium with Irina and Sarah are
shown.) She attacked again the next year in Vancouver, winning
an incredible fourth World title and setting herself up for her
second Olympic bid. At twenty-one, she would enter the Salt Lake
City Olympics in her home country as the reigning world champion.
Then, four months before Salt Lake, Kwan made a shocking announcement:
after ten years, she was leaving coach Frank Carroll and would compete
at the Olympics without a coach.
FC: We were having
some difficulty and we decided we weren't going to work anymore,
and I said to Michelle, "But Michelle, I haven't changed. The way
I teach, the technique I teach, and, you know, my attitude about
skating is the same; I haven't changed." And she said to me, "No,
you haven't changed, Frank. I've changed."
N: No one in skating
had ever contemplated trying for an Olympic gold without a coach.
It was an unprecedented move.
PF: I think it
was extremely hard to go through the Olympics without a coach. There's
a feeling of security and solidness about having your coach there,
you know, doing every little detail. (Clip shown of Michelle
hHugging Frank after performing Salome.) A coach is like another
set of eyes looking at you. But if anybody could have done it without
a coach, it--I would have put my money on Michelle. (laughing)
I wouldn't have put it on myself! But I would have put it on Michelle
to be able to pull it off.
N: Michelle Kwan
had decided to go to her second Olympics without a coach. To have
someone by her side, Michelle asked her father to stand at the boards
for her in 2002, as he had done so many years ago during that year
when the Kwans could no longer afford a coach.
DK: I just stand
to give her whatever she need, you know, and maybe give her a bottle
of water, calm her down, and that's my job, that's all it is, and
I think the last minute, she mentioned, "Dad, can you stand next
to me?" I said, "Sure."
KK: It was a little
bit scary, you know, because I think that there was a lot of pressure
on my dad--I could see it, you know. (Danny watching Michelle
warm up before 02 Olympic LP is shown) Not that he was--I'm
sure he wanted to go and skate for her, but, you know, just standing
there and going, "Okay. We've done these things for fifteen years
now, you know, I've watched you skate, now this is the Olympics;
okay, go out and skate."
MK: At the Olympics,
I had my dad there on the boards. And I had to put myself on the
ice but yet...I had somebody standing there that loved me and I
trusted and I had him by my side no matter what happened. And that
was a great, secure feeling for me. And the only thing I had to
worry about was going out there and skating, and that was very sacred
for me. It was just me and the ice.
Clips from 02 Oly
SP including: opening, spiral, taking bows are shown.
N: In the short
program, Kwan skated magnificently, taking first place. For the
second time in her life, she had the lead entering the Olympic finals.
MK: The pressure
to skate well is so high. My own expectations were so high. I skated
the best short program... (02 Olympic long program clips including:
Opening, falling on flip, in K&C with Danny are shown.)
The long program I just made a few mistakes. I just let it slip
out of my hands just a little bit. And that little bit cost a lot.
DK: I said, "Hey,
that's...you know, hey, you did your best; I'm proud for you. I'm
proud of you. That's best." That's what I told her.
N: (clips of
Michelle rying and singing on podium, ending clip of FOG are shown.)
Michelle ended up with the bronze medal. The next day, in the
exhibition following the Olympics, she skated in a gold dress to
the music "Fields of Gold", a number she had planned in advance.
RK: I'd never
seen her skate with such emotion. I found myself teared up, you
know, as an older brother.
PF: It was just
perfect. But the only imperfection was, she didn't have the gold
Several pics from
FOG are shown.
MK: The music
came on, and I started crying. During the performance, I mean I'm
into it, I had that feeling--it was so amazing. I let myself feel
that when I was skating, and felt the crowd behind me. I felt them
saying, "It's okay, you know, it's all right. You love skating,
you've won a lot of medals, you've won the Worlds; unfortunately,
this is not your Olympics." And I just--I don't know, I just felt
like, "Why couldn't I have released myself like that the night before?"
N: In her four
Olympic performances, Michelle Kwan had made exactly one mistake,
and yet her Olympic dream remained unfulfilled. But surprisingly,
the public didn't care if Michelle had won the gold or not.
Tom Collins: The
first night of the show in 2002, we opened in Dayton, Ohio, and
you know she won the bronze that year. And she came out, and they
announced her name, and she got a standing ovation. (Clips are
shown of Michelle skating out to cheers and standing ovation, clips
from Fields of Gold) And she skated, and before she was finished,
again the last minute people were on their feet. People just love
her, just love her, the most loved skater, probably in the history
of figure skating.
CB: You say to
people on the street, "Name a figure skater", and I think very often
they will tell you "Michelle Kwan". Even without Olympic gold medals,
that's how popular she is. (Clips are shown of Michelle signing
autographs and at 01 Nats with gold medal.) You cannot list
the top five to ten women athletes on Earth through the late 90's
into the next century without mentioning Michelle Kwan's name.
Practice clips, and
what looks like an ending pose (perhaps to Spartacus?) are shown.
N: After Salt
Lake, Michelle could have easily gone pro and given up her grueling
training regimen. But one year after her second Olympic heartbreak,
she went back out to put it all on the line again at the 2003 World
DK: She say, "Dad,
I still can do it", and "I think I can win another one."
are shown of spread eagle from Aranjuez 03 Worlds) I think
the Worlds after the Olympics really cemented her as a legend. That
ability to come back, that ability to skate to that level when the
chips are down, when she came out of such a traumatic Olympic year--I
think that puts her in the history books.
MK: I just, like,
ran down the ice doing my footwork, and I think the audience
knew; the audience was, like, with me and knew that I was just like,
"Yeah!" just like...pretty much screaming, with my arms up... (Michelle
while skating Lyra) I guess at the end of the day, when I'm
done with skating and I look back, and to have a gold medal... That
would be just...perfect. (laughs) I'm not sure if life could
be that perfect, in a career, in a skating career, because I'm so
lucky as it is, to win so many medals, and to be at the Olympics
and to get a silver and a bronze, but... It would just complete
the package. I mean, I've got a silver and I've got a bronze; all
I'm missing right there is (trailing away) a little, gold
Clips are shown of
young Michelle skating, Rach, Lyra, Schez, SOTBS
N: With or without
Olympic gold, Michelle Kwan is already one of her sport's greatest
champions. The daughter of Chinese immigrants from Torrance, California,
has realized her dreams, collecting dozens of titles along the way
and securing a special place in skating history.
PF: I absolutely
see her soul when she skates, and I think everybody in the building
feels that, because she just has it. It's something you can't teach.
from Lyra including: Opening, jumps, end pose are shown.) There's
something really special that sometimes happens to her; it's almost
like the music's channeled through her sometimes, and all of a sudden
the music comes on, and that's what makes her move. And the look
on her face, of the music and the way she does it is just...it makes
you float away with her.
to aetherae and Golden Michelle for this transcript!
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