They are at the Rockefeller Center ice rink

Katie Couric: Michelle Kwan has won more prestigious figure skating titles than anyone of her generation. She's the two-time US national champion, two-time world champion, and the 1998 Olympic silver medalist. Of course, yesterday, she won the Women's Sports Foundation's Sportswoman of the Year. Michelle, congratulations. Good to see you. How are you doing?

Michelle Kwan: (Michelle is wearing a black top with 3/4 length sleeves and black stretch pants) Thank you. You, too.

KC: Tell me about this award you were given last night, first of all.

MK: Well, it's a really great honor, because it was a special award for me, because it's from the Women's Sports Foundation. And back when I was younger, when I was 12 years old, there came a point when skating expenses were very expensive for my family, and they gave me a training and travel grant, which helped many--it helped pay for many expenses, so--which was good.

KC: And a lot of very, very impressive women have been given this award before you, haven't they? So you--you're in good company.

MK: Yeah.

KC: People like Janet Evans and all sorts of other star athletes.

MK: When they told me who were named before, I just--I couldn't believe they announced my name. I was like, 'You're saying that I'm this Sportswoman of the Year?' I--I didn't know what to say. They were like, 'Say a few words.' I was like, 'Hold on, give me a second.'

KC: Meanwhile, it's been a while since the--the Winter Olympics, and I know that you were slightly disappointed that you took home a silver, because you always dreamed of getting a gold medal. (They now show a clip of Michelle skating 'Lyra Angelica' at the Olympics from the second lutz jump until the ending pose where she teared up, while Katie continues to talk.) How do you feel about the whole experience now?

MK: I look back at it, and I think, WOW, I've been to the Olympic Games, and what an achievement that is. And, you know, I went out there, I skated my best. I had no regrets. You know, it was such a magical moment that night. And I came off the ice crying, knowing that I did it.

KC: Meanwhile, Tara Lipinski has given up her amateur status. You have not. You plan to compete again in the Winter Olympics. Why did you want to still stay competitive?

MK: Well, I love competing. And I entered the sport because of the competition, and I thought, 'Why not try it again? 2002 is right around the corner, and it's even in the United States.' So I thought, 'OK, I'll go for it.'

KC: Meanwhile, you're going to--we're going to see you skate soon, I guess, in the next couple of months? Tell me about where and how you'll be skating and...

MK: Well, in December, I have the World Pro in Washington, and I hope to be at the National Championships and World Championships. And after that, I have--in the spring, I have John Hancock Champions Ice--on Ice Tour.

KC: Which is great. Meanwhile, you had a vacation recently in Hawaii, right?

MK: Yeah, in Hawaii. But my tan is gone.

KC: For the first time in a decade? That must have been nice for you.

MK: Yeah, it was the first family vacation. We all went to Maui for two weeks, and just laid on the beach and just did everything, parasailed and scuba diving, snorkeling. We just did everything.

KC: Good for you. And also, a new 'do. (Katie ruffled Michelle's hair)

MK: Yeah.

KC: You went to Sharon Stone's stylists and cut off your locks, is that right?

MK: Yes, it's all gone. No more hair... (spoken tragically)

KC: I think it looks great. Do you like it, does it give you more freedom, because it's...

MK: Well, you know. It's like you get out of the shower and you're done.

KC: Ready to go.

MK: That way you--yeah.

KC: I think it looks great. Now, you're going to show us a couple of things this morning?

MK: OK. I was going to do a spiral, simple spiral, and then...

KC: OK.

MK: ...a flying camel. And then after me, you're going to show everybody, right?

KC: If we have time. If we have... (Katie didn't look too thrilled at the invite...)

Michelle laughs and then skates. She first does her spiral (gorgeous!!) and then does the flying camel, which then turns into a sit spin, and then into a Y-spin and she almost falls out of the Y and she ends it with a laugh.

MK: Well, that's it. Very simple. You want to try?

KC: You know, I thought it was so great, I read that your coaches at one point in time told you, when it came to performing on the ice, you had to ooze, you had to think of...

MK: Ooze.

KC: ...toothpaste coming out of the tube. Now, how, Michelle, has that helped you in your performances?

MK: Well, when I was very young, I always flopped through the movement, and I didn't 'ooooooooooze' the movement. And so, with the arms, it's a slow process from (holding her right arm down) to here (holding her right arm out straight to the side) So, it--it came out from music and feeling.

KC: And the music you choose is music you hope no one else has ever skated to before. Is that right?

MK: Yes.

KC: You find some pretty obscure music, don't you?

MK: I don't know where my choreographer finds it, and where we come up with ideas, but yeah, we try to get some complicated music, and very nice, and very different.

KC: Well, I'm glad you're doing so well. You graduated from high school with a 3.9. College in the future for you?

MK: I hope so. I want to continue my education. It's very important for young kids to know that skating or any sport is not as--it's just as important as education.

KC: I hear you like Harvard. Well, as we go off the air, do you want to go do one more spin for us?

Matt Lauer: (Matt shows up here and shakes Michelle's hand) Hi, Michelle, how are you today?

MK: Hi. Sure.

ML: What about taking Katie with you?

MK: Yeah, that's what I thought.

KC: Go ahead, Michelle.

ML: But you have your skates on.

KC: I've got my skates, I'll do it later.

ML: Oh, just do it now.

Michelle does a beautiful camel spin.

KC: This is poetry in motion. Michelle Kwan. Have a great day, everybody. We'll see you tomorrow.

Commercial Break

KC: We're back with Michelle Kwan. Actually, I wore these skates so I'd have a little height, Michelle, so I wouldn't look so short.

MK: Yeah, me, too. I love wearing skates because I look taller.

KC: How tall are you?

MK: Five-two.

KC: Ah.

MK: And you?

KC: Five-three and three quarters.

ML: She towers over you.

Sara James: You're a giant.

ML: How old--how old should--should young ladies and young men start if they want to be serious about this sport?

MK: It could be any age. I mean, for recreation, it doesn't matter. But I've seen world champions, Olympic champions start when they were nine years old, 10 years old. And I started when I was five. My sister, seven, so...

KC: I have to say, I'm really impressed that you were able to do so well in high school, with all of the demands on you in terms of skating. How were you able to keep your grade point so high?

MK: It was a little difficult at times. When I was on tour, I had one side of the suitcase for books, and one side for shoes, of course. So, it's really hard, of course, because I was in nice cities like New York, and I had to sit in the hotel room and discipline myself to open the books and do my homework.

KC: Do you have a tutor travel with you, Michelle?

MK: No, I didn't have a tutor with me...

ML: Wow.

MK: ...so I had to be self-disciplined and really had to do it because I--I knew education was important for me, and I knew I had to finish high school.

KC: So what do you think, take a year off, maybe two years off, and then go to college?

MK: And then go back to college, yeah.

KC: Yeah. Have you--have you looked at some schools already?

MK: I've started to apply already, and I've looked around, and see what's best for me. And it's a big decision, because I've got to know that my coaches in California, and I have to deal with that situation.

KC: Right.

Al Roker: Do you have a major?

MK: That's too far ahead.

SJ: So you'll be in college when you're doing the next Olympics?

MK: Probably.

SJ: So you're going to have that books, shoes thing again.

MK: Shoes. Yeah.

AR: Yeah, you can probably get an independent study, though, for that.

ML: What a great excuse to miss an exam, though.

MK: 'Oh, I'm going to the Olympics this week. So I'll miss it this week.'

KC: That's funny. That's great. Well, you look great, and I'm so glad things are going so well for you.

MK: Thank you.

KC: And you're so respected in the skating world for how balletic your performances are, and you're so incredible graceful. And it must be hard to combine that grace with great athleticism, too. Do you find that a big challenge?

MK: Well, I love this sport. I can put--I can combine them both, I can be graceful and also be able to jump and do triple jumps. And I mean, I--it's a great combination.

KC: Well, whenever I see you, I'm going to think of oozing toothpaste.

AR: Ooze.

MK: Ooze.

KC: Michelle Kwan.

ML: Thanks, Michelle.

Huge thanks to Shallah for this transcript!


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Photo Jay Adeff