Bud Greenspan is always a voice over

Michelle’s is shown running on a treadmill to open the show

Bud Greenspan: Six American women have won the figure skating championship at the Olympic games. Tenley Albright, Carol Heiss, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Tara Lipinski. In Salt Lake City, on February 21, another American will attempt the journey to the top step of the award podium. Her name: Michelle Kwan, beloved both on and off the ice. (Michelle and her family are shown sitting around a table eating) Michelle Kwan is the youngest of three children of a very close knit family. Her parents Estella and Danny, her sister Karen, two years older, and her brother Ron, the oldest child in the family.

Michelle Kwan: (Michelle has her hair down, a little longer than shoulder length. She is wearing a tan color sweater) My family has been there through the ups and downs, and there are times when you lose your confidence. (Michelle and Ron are shown playing pool) Your family is there to support you, to gain that confidence back. I know that whether I fall million times, they still love me for who I am, and will always be there for me.

After saying the above, instrumental music is played while they show the following clips: doing a lutz in Scheherazade at Nationals, an axel during practice at Ice Castle, having fun during a photo shoot, walking while signing autographs, on the ice at the CMN/Barbie clinic, fishing with her dad, talking at the USOC Olympic summit, under the Christmas tree with Karen, posing for a picture at I think the CMN/Barbie clinic. Then the following title is shown over the rink at the ‘94 Olympics is shown:
Bud Greenspan
Michelle Kwan

BG: This is Lake Arrowhead, California in the San Bernardino mountains, the training ground for Michelle Kwan and a retreat for the whole family. They love and feel for each other.

MK: My first memory when I first stepped on the ice was following my brother and sister around the rink. We started skating at a shopping mall that had an ice rink. And, my brother played hockey in the beginning, and then both Karen and I begged our parents to put us on skates. And so I’d stroll around, and I was just like, chasing everybody on the ice, my brother holding my hand, dragging me everywhere. (Shaking head) It was...the best. (Three photos of a young Michelle on the ice with her family are shown)

BG: Though Michelle has risen to international renown, at home she is still the baby of the family. A philosophy of life that starts at the top, with Michelle’s father, Danny.

Danny Kwan: I took Karen and Michelle and said, hey, this is your only sister, the only brother you have for life. And someday, when I’m not here, or when your mom’s not here, there is someone you can count on. So, you have to learn how to love each other. (Picture of a young Michelle and Karen is shown) And they do. If there’s one thing I’m really proud of, it’s my children. (video of Michelle and Karen during a ‘96 Nationals interview is shown)

Karen Kwan: Michelle and I are definitely best friends. Going to competitions, you always are a little bit nervous. (A clip of Karen skating, which Michelle cheering in the audience, is shown) But having your best friend there, and, you know, my sister there, it just kind of eased all the uneasiness of competition stress. So it was actually fun for us.

Ron Kwan: She’s my little sister, and I don’t see her as Michelle Kwan. She’s my little sister, and, you know, I’m going to still treat her as my little sister. On the ice, Michelle is nothing but business. I can’t treat her like my little sister when she’s on the ice, I can tell you that.

MK: I have a great relationship with my parents. They’re my best friends...so are my sister and brother. But my dad loves fishing. (A clip of Michelle fishing with her dad is shown) He has this little boat, so sometimes late in the evening we go fishing together, and we talk a lot. And, education has always been important to the Kwan family. My parents have always said, you know, skating is one thing, but after you’re done skating, you can only skate for so many years. (A clip of Michelle on the computer, with Danny watching, is shown) He has helped me put my skating in perspective, and realizing that there’s more to life than just skating.

BG: (A clip of a very young Michelle is shown skating, doing several single axels.) The Kwan’s moved to Lake Arrowhead to be closer to the Ice Castle International Training Center, which featured a perfect rink for figure skating. It was here that Michelle came to the attention of some of the elite names in the sport.

Brian Boitano: When I first saw Michelle, I think my impression was “Bambi.” Bambi, cause she had these little legs that looked like they were going to buckle at any second, but she was doing these really hard jumps. And then as she would land these triples, her legs would sort of, you know, almost be collapsing underneath her. So I thought of Bambi on that pond, outdoors, you know, where Bambi slides on the ice and his legs are spread, and he’s, he’s turning around. Um, that’s what I thought about her. I just thought of her as just the youngest little thing that could jump up a storm. (A different clip of a young Michelle skating is shown)

MK: Brian Boitano, he’s...been, an inspiration. Ever since I was seven years old, I watched him win the Olympics in ‘88, and he’s been my role model. (A picture of Michelle and Brian in ‘97 is shown) We talk all the time about the Olympics, about competition, and he’s been through it all.

BB: She might look delicate, but she’s a tiger. And, she just has that determination, she has that focus, she has...she can get in the zone. And, then go on the ice and produce. And there’s nothing better as an athlete then see another athlete that’s able to do that, and then produce it. (Video of Michelle skating is shown, ending with her program’s end pose)


(clip Michelle and Frank on practice ice)

BG: This is Frank Carroll one of the most respected coaches in figure skating. In 1992, he watched Michelle Kwan skate for the first time in an event leading to the National Junior Championships.

FC: I watched her at the Pacific Coast Championships where I actually had another girl in Junior Ladies against her and I wouldn’t enter into an agreement to help her until after the championships because I already had a skater. Well, my skater didn’t make it to Nationals but Michelle did qualify and that was the first time I got to see her skate and she was, you know, quite remarkable.

(clip of Michelle at Nationals)

MK: My parents couldn’t really afford coaching and when I made it to Nationals that was the point where I said “okay, I have to have a coach”

FC: I started teaching Michelle right after that Pacific Coast Championship and it was my first experience, those first few weeks before the Nationals in trying to help her to see what I could do in that time frame

BG: Though Michelle did not do well in the Junior Nationals, she was more confident than ever that her future was bright.

MK: Well, I had just finished Nationals and at the time I wanted to move up to Senior level. I said I know I didn't skate that well at Nationals, I ended up ninth, and I said I believed that I could make it on Senior level and Frank thought otherwise. He said, uh, you should stay in one more year just to skate better next year at Nationals and then move up.

FC: I thought it would be more in her benefit to win the Junior title and go into the Senior ladies as a National Champion, and, of course, she didn't want to hear that.

MK: My parents know me. They know that I'm always impatient and I said "okay, let's take the test". And so, when Frank was gone for a week I decided to take my test. And so I passed and when he came home he was furious, of course, because as a coach you think you make decisions, but I was young and I said I want this and I'm gonna get it!

BG: One year later, twelve-year-old Michelle Kwan is one of the competitors in the 1993 Senior National Ladies Championships.

FC: Well, you know, when something's done what can you do? You can't go back and undo it. You have to move ahead. But I explained to Michelle how much work she had ahead of her that being a Senior lady in our Nationals means that you have to skate entirely different with a new maturity, different look about it, and ease about it and it is a whole different caliber of skater.

Phil Hersh: Well, I noticed her first in 1993 when she was twelve years old competing at the Nationals and was the first one to have been that young in 30 odd years and as really quite remarkable.

BG: In her first Senior National Competition Michelle Kwan finishes in Sixth Place.

It is January 8th, 1994. The Long Program on the final night of the women's National Figure Skating Championship in Detroit. The surprise of the competition is 13-year-old Michelle Kwan currently in third place. The results will have dual meaning. The first two finishers will represent the United States at the Lillehamer Olympics. One of the favorites, Nancy Kerrigan, is not in the competition. Two days before the Nationals she was attacked by an unknown assailant and her leg was badly injured. On this night, Tonya Harding wins the Championship, 13-year old Michelle Kwan finishes second. However, officials decide to delay naming Kwan to the team.

It is February 12th, 1994 the Opening Ceremonies of the Lillehamer Olympic games. After passing a skating test, Nancy Kerrigan is named to the Olympic team joining Tonya Harding. Michelle Kwan is now named the first alternate. The USFSA then decides that Michelle Kwan and coach Frank Carroll should travel to Norway and be ready to perform.

MK: Well in 1994 I remember being thrown into this whole Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding situation. They sent me over to Lillehamer as an alternate and I think that is was the first time they ever send anyone as an alternate to an Olympic Games. Um, I wanted to compete but I knew that Tonya and Nancy were here and I'm just her "just in case" . The time was fun cause it's my first real big experience. I've never been to an Olympic Games, so to me it was just a whole exciting event.

FC: When we were in Lillehamer was a fabulous experience for Michelle. We had great fun, you know, we went there we didn't know if we were going to skate or not and then it was decided that she wasn't going to skate and that Tonya Harding was going to skate and so we relaxed, went to all the events and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think Michelle learned a great deal about the Olympics and about that level of competition in Lillehamer, and uh, that how important an event it really was and what it meant to a lot of people.

BG: The winner of the Women's Figure Skating Competition is Oksana Baiul of Ukraine with Nancy Kerrigan second, Lu Chen third. Tonya Harding places eighth.


BG: Thirteen year old Michelle Kwan went on to compete in the Worlds in M------, Japan and finished 8th. The following year she won the silver in the Nationals, and came in 4th in the Worlds. For the next seven years, Michelle Kwan would never finish worse than third.

Tom Collins: This little girl comes on the ice, and I watched her do her performance. There was some magic in her skating and it really got to me. So I went down to the ice, ‘cause I didn’t know who her coach was. It was Frank Carroll and I went up to Frank and I said, “Frank, what’s her name again?” He said, “Michelle Kwan.” I said, Yeah, Michelle, I really feel, just looking at her right now, she’s got the potential to be an Olympic Champion.

BG: The following year, 1996, the Kwan sisters are reunited on the ice.

KK: It was kind of fun for us. And I had watched Michelle compete for a long time so it was nice for me to actually to be there and go through the same exact feelings that she was going through. And just skating one after another and being in the same warm ups and things like that. It was just like home. (A clip of Michelle at Nationals is shown. Background comments from Peggy “Wonderful!” and Dick “Wasn’t that nice?”)

MK: I skated before her and after I skated, I was still nervous. Why am I still nervous? And then a few skaters later I had to watch Karen and that was like the worst thing in the whole world to watch your sister skate. (Karen is shown skating and then finishing her program.) I was able to come to the Kiss and Cry and keep her company while she got her scores. It was fun.

KK: We have a great family and we talk about everything and you know we help each other out. That’s just a great feeling to have, skating or not.

BG: Michelle wins the National Championships and Karen finishes fifth. In a few months, 15 year old Michelle would be a favorite to win her first World Championship in Edmonton. This would be one of the most critical moments of her career, her transition from child to woman.

MK: For the next few years was a real good time for me to start growing up and to start maturing on the ice.

FC: I think for all girls that reach maturity, you know, as an adult… skating is difficult because their body balance changes a lot. You know, they suddenly have curves where they didn’t have them before. Suddenly their axis of rotation is different and frequently their careers are over. I mean if they don’t stay lean and mean, they just can’t jump any more. It’s a very difficult transition for women in figure skating to go from being a child to being an adult.

BG: An even greater peak was reached a few weeks later for Michelle Kwan when she won the 1996 World Championship in Edmonton.

MK: I know I was only 15 and yet I was bold enough to do this program called Salome. Something that no one’s ever really done before, something that’s completely out there. It was a great time because I was able to…shock everybody.

PH: Performing to Salome, and it was the kid with the pony tail now was the Biblical temptress. And we all…basically I was among those who laughed at her, who said, this is improbable, totally preposterous. How are you going to pull this thing off? (Show Michelle skating to Salome.) By the time she finished those four minutes in Edmonton, at those World Championships, she was Salome. This little kid who you thought could never pull that off had all of a sudden assumed the role. You just never thought of Michelle Kwan, the dance of the seven veils, you know, being able to do something so sensual that would bring her the head of John the Baptist. But she did!

(A clip from '96 Worlds broadcast of Salome, with Peggy Flemming saying "Wow!" Then Dick Button saying, "What an extraordinary performance. There was not a single flaw there. She gave nothing up, nothing, with that performance. Absolutely the best.")

BG: When Michelle was not competing she would tour with ice shows around the United States.

TC: We had her on the tour with Champions On Ice and she skated in 75 shows for us. We rehearsed before the show on a nightly basis. But she would come in, in the afternoon, earlier before anybody else got there and would skate, just to get the extra time in. And when there were days off, uh she would find an arena or an ice rink and skate at that rink. Now this is in the middle of doing 75 shows. So she really worked at her craft.

BB: The thing I like about Michelle, its about skating, it's not about playing to an audience. Michelle is sort of the type that goes out there, and um, she’s like I’m going to skate great for you and if you want to clap for me you will and I’m gonna just sort of be out there doing what I do best. And personally that’s what I really like seeing from a skater.

MK: Sometimes you need to start fresh in skating. You don’t want to stay the same. You don’t want to get stuck in a rut and do the same thing, even...even if you’re comfortable its nice to just throw new things into a recipe. Spice it up a little bit.

(A clip from '96 Worlds broadcast of Romanza is shown, with Dick Button saying "Oh look at that expression as she looks over her shoulder. Isn’t that wonderful?")


(A clip of Michelle from '97 Nationals, starting with the opening pose from Taj Mahal.. Bud’s voice starts as they continue to show Michelle skating)

BG: It was at the 1997 nationals in Nashville, Tennessee that Michelle Kwan faced her greatest test. She was the defending national and world champion coming into the competition, and with those titles came added pressure. She was no longer an underdog, but the skater everyone had to beat.

MK: '97 was a tough year for me. Seems like I had something to lose or something to prove and the only place to go was down.

(A clip of Michelle falling during her long program at Nationals is shown. Dick Button commentating: triple toe, double toe, and then a fall off the end which was absolutely unnecessary and uncalled for).

PH: What happened in ’97 was she had some struggles and throughout that fall season of ’97 you know, was Michelle, wasn’t Michelle, was Michelle, wasn’t Michelle.

(back to clip of Michelle at ’97 nationals stepping out of a jump, Dick: Oh, now that was a problem, that was a problem. Peggy Flemming: triple flip. Terry Gannon: Now she fell twice in the warm-up, you remember that...)

MK: I had to relearn, sort of that, mental attitude, of that there’s nothing really to lose because it’s not yours in the first place. So every year it’s fresh and new and umm, it’s a competition, you win some you lose some.

(back to clip of her ’97 long program at nationals as Michelle goes into her final pose. Peggy: very solid at the end, ugh, what a difficult night. DB: Listen everyone has to do this once and awhile, she did it tonight. And you know, I don’t think that affects the overall level and quality of her skating. This just wasn’t her best performance by any means).

Peggy Flemming: She was, I think, devastated. And It’s a whole different experience when you’re the favorite, when you’re not the favorite you can have a lot more fun.

(Clip of Michelle and Frank in kiss and cry after ’97 long program. MK: I tried not to panic but…FC: I know, and that’s alright, you know you can’t be perfect all the time. You can’t be that hard on yourself. MK: I know. FC: You came back you did a nice salchow, nice toe loop at the end…MK: Why did I chicken out on these FC: Well, I don’t think you chickened out, you went for the loop, you took a bad fall, but you can’t you know...)

FC: You know, it takes a lot of strength to be able to stand out in front of eighteen thousand people and do seven triple jumps (clip of Michelle and Frank in K&C looking at her marks) and to do a fabulous performance as Michelle has done time after time after time. I think people are very, very wrong if they ever count Michelle down, because she’ll show up fighting and she’ll persevere.

BG: Michelle Kwan finishes the competition in second place. Tara Lipinski is the new national champion. As the 1998 winter Olympic games approached, (clip of Michelle practicing is shown), Michelle went through her daily practice sessions. An endless routine that always holds the possibility of injury.

MK: The ’98 season was a little difficult for me because my foot started hurting. I ignored it for a couple of months. Then after awhile the pain started getting worse and worse then found out I had a stress fracture in my left foot (clip of Michelle, with a cast on her foot, and her mom) so they put me in a cast. And you have Nationals to qualify for the Olympics, you can’t take three weeks off. And you’re sitting at home doing nothing! Just hoping that after you take your cast off and get your skates on you’ll be fine.

FC: She did go to the doctor, and he made some very strong recommendations, he more or less said if you do exactly what I tell you to do, you will be able to skate in the Nationals, and if you don’t you’ll probably miss the Nationals and the Olympic games. So that sort of terrified her a little bit and she did exactly as she was told (clip of Michelle, with her cast, sitting on the couch reading). But! In December, I can remember her first time getting on the ice without the cast and trying to skate (clip of Frank and Michelle talking) on the leg and burst into tears and said, “I can’t do this, I just can’t do this!” It shocked me because Michelle was always very positive (clip of Michelle testing out her leg at practice with Frank), and it took a little bit of calming her down and saying look you know you take one step at a time one day at a time and it will get better. You know you just feel very weak because your leg has been in a cast and those muscles haven’t been used, but it’s going to work out, you have to believe that you can do it, and you will do it!!

(clip of Michelle at skating Lyra Angelica at ’98 nationals is shown)

BG: It is January 1998 the long program at the women’s nationals in Philadelphia. For Michelle Kwan this will be the first major test of her foot. The cast was only removed six weeks ago. The top three finishers at these Nationals will qualify for the Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

MK: ’98 nationals I remember a few reporters saying “Oh, Michelle’s still not ready yet.” Or I didn’t show up for a practice the morning of the short program they said “Oh I think she’s going to just withdraw because of her pain.” There wasn’t much expectation but I knew that I was getting better and better and that I felt stronger and stronger, I felt ready even though I only had a few weeks to prepare, felt good.

FC: It was very iffy and chancy ugh...because it was a matter of well alright maybe we have time for the leg to really heal, but will it be strong enough to get her through. (clip of Michelle skating her long program) And, of course, at the Nationals part of the great drama of that championship was that the last jump in the program was a triple toe loop which was off the left leg, and that was the thing that injured the leg to begin with. And it was very, very hard for her to pull that jump off, but to win she needed to do it. (clip of Michelle going into the triple toe loop at Nationals is shown). And of course she did it perfectly and of course the Nationals was one of the greatest performances that a women has ever given in the history of our entire country and it was just brilliant.

(clip of Michelle skating the ending section of Lyra Angelica at '98 Nationals is shown)

BG: When the competition is over, she has set a standard that perhaps will never be duplicated. (clip of Michelle in the kiss and cry, waving to the crowd as her marks are read). Her marks for artistic impression astound even the judges, who gave her 15 perfect scores of six. To this day, this performance has been called the gold standard for future generations of figure skaters. For Michelle Kwan there is an additional history connected to her victory. (Clip of Peggy Flemming on the podium at Nationals in Philadelphia in 1968 is shown.) It was thirty years ago here in Philadelphia in 1968 that her idol Peggy Flemming won the Nationals then went on to win the gold medal in Grenoble (various clips of Michelle signing autographs, at a photo shoot are shown.) Since her victory in the nationals, Michelle’s free time is limited. Now she attends photo sessions, scheduled around her practice sessions and her photograph adorns the covers of countless magazines both here and abroad.


(clip of Michelle and Tara ’98 Olympic practice session is shown)

BG: It is February 13, Nagano Japan. The American women figure skaters arrive for their practice session. In five days the women’s competition for the gold medal will begin. There is much speculation from the press that the battle for the gold medal will be between Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski of the United States. At the press conference afterward, she hears disturbing news (clip of Michelle and Frank at press conference) about Peggy Flemming (Reporter: "Peggy...she has breast cancer." A shocked expression is seen on Michelle’s face. Reporter: "She’s okay, she’s okay. She’s going to have radiation, but she’s going to be okay.")

PF: She was SO thoughtful. She called me from Nagano, and I’m at home, you know, going through my treatments. And I’m answering the phone and she goes, “Hello this is Michelle” and I’m going Michelle, Michelle, MICHELLE! (Peggy laughs) You’re in Nagano, you’re suppose to be thinking about the Olympics not me! (clip of Michelle lacing her skates) And I just thought, it really to me back of you know what a sweet person, what a giving person and thoughtful person she was. When she’s up against the toughest competition, that she thought to call me to see how I was doing. And I reassured her I was doing fine and wished her all the best of luck there and to concentrate on her skating!

(clip of White Ring figure skating arena in Nagano Japan, and then the skaters taking the ice for the ladies long program warmup.)

BG: It is Friday evening February 20, 1998. The White Ring figure skating arena in Nagano, Japan. Thousands in the stands and millions throughout the world will soon witness the four minute long program that will decide the winner of the ladies figure skating gold medal. In first place after the short program two nights ago is Michelle Kwan of the United States. Followed by her teammate Tara Lapinski. With Maria Butyrskaya of Russia in third, then Lu Chen, China in fourth. Kwan’s first place position is a result of eight of the nine judges placing her first after the short program. The short program is worth one third of the final score with tonight’s long program worth two third’s. It is well known that any of the top three women in the standings can win the gold with a first place finish tonight.

MK: The short program is always difficult because what skaters always say is that you can’t win with the short program but you can lose with the short program. You always want to place in the top three in the short so you have a chance of winning in the long. And I was in the prime spot. I won the short, felt solid on the ice, felt great the audience was awesome.

(clip of Michelle being called to the ice to skate her long program Lyra Angelica at the Olympics is shown.)

BG: Of the possible medal winners, Michelle will skate first in the long program. This is not an enviable position. The other skaters in contention will know what marks they have to beat. Michelle Kwan is not concerned. (clip of Michelle starting her long program)

MK: I was first to skate in the short program so I had really good energy, I said “I can skate first in the long program it would be no problem.” Ilia Kulik won the men’s at Nagano also chose first to skate in the short and first to skate in the long, so I was like, this is good karma, this is perfect.

(clip of Michelle skating into her triple lutz/double toe combination during the long program)

PF: I love Michelle’s skating, a lot. And I think she encompasses what our sport stands for, is athletic and artistic and she blended the two so beautifully.

BB: The thing that I like most about Michelle’s skating is that I have never seen a women so capable of interpreting music the way that I’ve seen Michelle do it, it was just so magical.

MK: In the middle of the performance I realized you know, this is the Olympics. I mean I did every jump solidly, landed with ease and everything. But there was something that was missing.

FC: I felt that she did kind of hold back a little bit, and tried desperately to be consistent and to do the job right. You know all the other sports, you know, skiing, and speed skating all of them it’s like going for the gold, go, go, go and I think that’s what was missing.

MK: I finished the program and I started to cry because I landed all my jumps didn’t make a mistake, and I felt like I went to Japan to do something and I did it, and I accomplished it. So I was kind of swept with emotions.

BG: Her scores are high, but there is room for her to be beaten. She is still in first place after Irina Slutskaya (clip of Irina skating her long program) and Lu Chen finished their routines (clip of Lu Chen skating her long program). Finally, the next to last skater of the evening, Tara Lipinski, the only one left who can beat her (clip of Tara skating her long program)

MK: I wasn’t able to watch the rest of the skaters, because for me, I don’t feel that it will help me because I don’t want to wish a skater bad, I don’t want them to fall, because I know they’ve worked just as hard as I did.

BB: Tara came on and just was like literally a rocket was lit under her, and she came out you know determined and someone who was after something. And she skated her brains out

TC: Tara Lipinski possibly, quite possible skated the performance of her life. I don’t think she skated that way before, I don’t think she skated that way since.

PF: Tara was full energy and ambition and spark and you know her jumps weren’t as high but you know they were really solid and quick and small. Umm and that was a different style of skating than Michelle so it was just a matter of opinion and the energy level that they gave (clip of Tara getting her marks and screaming for joy when she realizes she won)

MK: I heard the marks and found out that I ended up second. It was difficult because I really had to get myself together and realize you know that second isn’t so bad.

BG: The final placings Tara Lipinski first, Michelle Kwan second, Lu Chen, China third. Afterward the award ceremony.

(clip of Michelle, Tara and Lu Chen during the medal ceremony)

MK: I was congratulating Tara, ‘cause she skated amazing. And Lu Chen. And I remember standing on the podium proud that there were two American flags being raised, hearing the anthem. And I felt proud of myself cause I was able to skate as well as I did.

FC: I think you could have called it either way and I think probably 50% of the people in the world did exactly that. They called it one way or the other, and I think she grasped that, you know, that she had to accept this and be gracious and congratulate Tara, whom she always liked and got along with very well, and to be gracious. And I think she pulled that off very, very well.

PH: From the way she handled the defeat in Nagano was so stunning, there was no ranker, no I got robbed, no I could have done a lot better, no anything. She said I did the best I could, Tara won the gold medal, of course I would have wanted to win it, but she just handled that so wonderfully. But viewed as a performance, that was as stunning a performance as any she’d ever given on the ice.

BG: Afterward one columnist wrote, “Of all the losing locker rooms I have visited in two decades as a sports writer, I have never seen anyone cope with crushing defeat with more poise, dignity and maturity, than a teenage girl named Michelle Kwan.”


BG: Her loss to Tara Lipinski at the 1998 Olympics was a disappointment—she had done everything, won everything, everything that as a child she’d dream she would win.

MK: Ever since I was really young, I remember going to school. Most of my friends, and pretty much the whole school, knew that I skated. They’d ask me, like, what I wanted, and what my dreams were, and I said to win the Olympics, and to go to the Olympics. My biggest dream was to represent the country and go to the Olympics.

BG: With the Salt Lake City 2002 Games still four years away, 17-year-old Michelle Kwan decides to stay in competition and continue to seek her goal.

MK: It was not a difficult decision at all. At that moment, I knew that it wasn’t the end of my skating career. I wanted to keep on competing, and I’m glad I’ve made that decision to keep on going to Salt Lake City, because competition is where my heart is at this moment. It’s where it satisfies me the most.

KK: Since she was little, she’s always talked about the Olympics and the Olympic dream and having all of that. And at Nagano, maybe she felt that she held back a little bit. And I knew that she was going to do this, I mean that she was going to go all the way, that she was going to compete another four years and get to Salt Lake City.

BG: Following the 1998 Olympics, in the years leading to the Salt Lake Games, Michelle Kwan won four National Championships and three World Championships.

Sara Kawahara: I think Michelle’s decision to stay in the Olympics really speaks for itself; it really says a lot, it’s a real statement. She’s not just a skater that wants to perform and do shows, but truly what makes her tick is to compete.

Katarina Witt: You had a lot of champions who sort of won and left the scene and turned professional, and I just really respect this in her, because you can tell she has an athlete’s heart. You know, she wants to go out there and compete, and she competes to win.

BG: On October 23, 2001, Michelle Kwan announces that she will end her nearly ten year relationship with coach Frank Carroll. After an emotional meeting, Michelle told Carroll she wanted to go it alone.

FC: Well, we skated a competition down in San Diego. And she did not skate well. And afterwards I felt we should have a meeting and that we should discuss it. And she called me later that evening and said, “Tomorrow I’d like to work by myself, I’d like to go to the rink and just work by myself.” And I said, “Fine, no problem, just call me when you need me. I’ll be over on the other rink, and I’ll come over when you need me and I’ll help you.” And the week went by and she never called me. And so Friday, she came in with tears in her eyes and we sat down and talked. And she just said that she wanted to do this on her own; that she felt that she needed to be strong enough to do it on her own and to get out there and win on her own; that she didn’t want to rely on me and she didn’t want to rely on her father and her mother, and that it was something that she had to be strong enough to do by herself. And so that was really the last time, you know, I was involved with her as her coach.

PF: Michelle is probably the only athlete in the world that could probably go to the Olympic Games without a coach. I think Michelle can win in Salt Lake. I really do. You know, you go out there and perform, you know, all by yourself in the center of the ice. You can’t have your coach holding your hand when you go out there. He can say some encouraging words right before you step out, but you have to go out there yourself.

PH: I think Michelle is pulled in a lot of directions right now. I mean, she has a chance to be known as the greatest skater never to win an Olympic gold medal. Michelle has got all those other titles behind her name—all the national championships, all the world championships, all the dazzling performances, and it would be a shame if that was the one thing that was left out of her resume.

MK: There are some people who truly believe in me, believe that I can do it, and there’s some people who don’t believe in me, but I guess it all doesn’t matter as long as I believe in myself, and believe that I can do it. It’s not that easy putting yourself in a situation where the demands are so high. And you have to keep up with it, and in order to keep up with it you have to train certain hours, you have to eat a certain way, you have to travel, you have to do a lot of things. I’ve always learned through my parents, through my family, that skating is just a sport. And you put it in perspective that the only reason I entered this sport was to have fun. And sometimes, it’s stressful at times, but then I realized, you know, I want to look back as the time of my life.


BG: It is 4 PM, Saturday afternoon, Staples Center, Los Angeles California. 18,000 spectators fill the stands for the final night of the ladies championship, the four minute long program that will determine the three skaters that will represent the United States at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. Two days earlier, the 2 minute short program was contested, representing one-third of the final score. After the short program, it became evident that four women would battle it out for the three places. The crowd cheers its favorites as the skaters take their warm-ups before the competition gets underway.

In first place after the short program, Michelle Kwan. By the luck of the draw, she will skate first. Skating first is an obstacle for many skaters. Not so for Michelle Kwan. Among the leaders, she had been the first to skate two nights earlier in the short program.

KK: Michelle just has this energy on the ice, and she just sparkles on the ice. She loves every aspect of skating, and the competing, the training, the jumping, everything about it. There is just so much joy and this energy that she has that just kind of captures people's attention.

MK: There is something about competitions that gets me revved up, and sort of hungry. That drive, that intensity that you feel, so powerful, you feel that on fire sometimes. And that's what we athletes hunger for.

BG: Now, here in the long program, she is near perfect. But the judges, by tradition, do not normally score perfection for the first skater. Room must be left for the subsequent skaters to equal or surpass the first performer. Now, tonight, Michelle Kwan is matching her impeccable skate of two nights before. In a rare happening, two judges give Kwan a perfect 6 for artistic performance.

Twenty-one year old Angela Nikodinov, who was in fourth place before the evening program began, follows Kwan. For the past two months, Nikodinov has been emotionally spent. Two months ago, her beloved coach died of cancer. Coach and pupil had been inseparable. Now, her new coach is Frank Carroll, who Michelle Kwan dismissed earlier. Sasha Cohen is next. She is as brilliant as expected. She moves past Nikodinov into second place behind Kwan. Now the drama begins. Kwan and Cohen are certainties for two of the three places. Now it is time for 16-year old Sarah Hughes. She too is sensational, as she was two nights before. She passes Nikodinov. The tragic recent life of Nikodinov continues. She fails to make the Olympic team.

The Olympic team: Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Sarah Hughes.

MK: When the history books are written, I don't want to be known as just a person who won '96 Worlds, who won '98 Worlds, who won 2000, 2001. Titles are great, but I think the best thing is who the person was, and what she brought to the sport. I think when everything is said and done, and I'm done with skating, I hope that the years that I did skate I brought inspiration to people, brought joy, happiness, and just made people feel good.

FC: Well, I hope she'll win the Olympic Games. You know, I kind of wish I would be there with her. You know, that to me is disappointing. But, I think if she has to go it alone, if that's the route she thinks she has to do, then she has to do that. I think Michelle Kwan is the greatest woman skater in the world. I think she is one of the greatest of all time. I think she's a legend in her own time, and I don't think anybody can touch her in skating. And I'll be with her there in my heart, and I just hope she skates up a storm.

BG: So once again Michelle Kwan will enter the Olympic arena with an incredible record: four World Championships, six National Championships, five in succession. A career that has seen her reach perfection 27 times with perfect 6's, three times more than her idol, Brian Boitano, received in his entire career. But win or lose at the Salt Lake City Olympics, Michelle Kwan will smile the good smile, and celebrate with the personal knowledge that she has done her best, fulfilling the centuries old adage reserved only for very special people. The words: "The honor should not go alone to those who have not fallen, but all honor to those who fall and rise again."

Huge thanks to Deedee, Rose Mary, torialynne, Izzy, and Paul for helping me with this transcript!

Back to News / Transcripts
Photo © Jay Adeff