[SPORTS] Michelle Kwan Interview
- Michelle Kwan is Set to Defend Her Title
Posted By: Judy Tseng
Five-time world champion and eight-time U.S. champion skater
Michelle Kwan is feeling strong and ready for Nationals. In less
than two weeks, she will face off against Sasha Cohen, Angela
Nikodinov, and a host of young skaters in a quest to break Maribel
Vinson's record for the most consecutive U.S. national medals.
"I'm in very good shape," says Kwan. "I'm doing run-throughs, and
skating up in the mountains [of Lake Arrowhead, California] has been
When asked if she noticed Michelle Kwan Forum members wearing purple
at the previous national championships to support her, Kwan laughed
and readily divulged the colors of her new Vera Wang skating
dresses. "I hope they'll be wearing burnt red for the short program
and gold for the long." This should prevent the fans' prediction
error again. Last January, Michelle Kwan Forum members decked out
in purple were surprised to see Kwan come out in a coral orange
Kwan, age 24, says it is "sort of a strange feeling" to be compared
to legendary skaters. With a competitive skating career spanning
more than a decade, she is a stand-out in a sport littered with
burned-out or injured teens. "I still feel like a little thirteen-
year old on the ice.... Just when I think I've seen it all, someone
gets on the ice at the world championships and strips down!" Kwan
chuckles while recalling the then-not-so-funny incident from this
past year's competition, where a man advertising a gambling website
jumped onto the ice as she prepared to begin her long program.
As always, Kwan is asked about the Olympics. Though she always
thought that after the 2002 Olympics, she would hang up her skates,
Kwan seems content to be where she is now.
"I'm the luckiest girl alive," she muses. "I get to do what I love,
skate to beautiful music, ... dressed in Vera Wang. Yes, I have
thought about the Olympics-- how could I not? It's an everyday
process. I do think about the Olympics, but I'm taking one step at
A reporter from Shanghai asks Kwan how her Chinese roots have
influenced her. Kwan responds, "I guess my work ethic comes a lot
from my parents [who immigrated from Hong Kong and China]. They're
very focused on whatever they do," for example, in raising Kwan and
her two older siblings.
Kwan says she did watch Skate America and parts of other
competitions this fall. She was able to analyze the Code of Points
judging system and what the other skaters did. She compares having
to adjust to the new judging system as being "like teaching an old
dog new tricks." She has to "maintain the integrity" of her
skating, "yet follow the rules, get level threes, and still win."
Kwan says she has added a few variations to her spins and her
footwork will stay the same. She always views her programs as works
in progress and is willing to make changes to them later after
getting ideas for improvement from officials.
When asked about Canadian Jeffrey Buttle, who now trains with the
same coach, Rafael Arutunian, Kwan says she just saw him at the rink
thirty minutes earlier and is glad to have him as a training partner.
"It's awesome having Jeffrey Buttle training at the same rink. We
push and cheer each other on. It's great to have that sort of
environment at the rink."
Kwan's sense of humor and self-deprecation emerges as she explains
why she has stayed relatively injury-free during her long skating
career, the exception being a stress fracture in a toe in
1998. "It's because I'm lazy!" she jokes. She describes herself as
competitive and loving to push herself, but at the same time, she is
cognizant of her physical limits. "When I get tired and I know I'm
going to hurt myself doing another triple lutz, I'd rather back down
and try again later. It's about knowing your limitations. I give
it [her lack of injury] to being lazy."
Though Michelle Kwan has been working hard to prepare for Nationals
in Portland, she did have some time to enjoy the holidays. On
Christmas Eve, she and her extended family got together to
celebrate. On Christmas day, she cooked dinner for her parents,
brother Ron, and godfather. Her older sister Karen, who also was a
competitive skater, was in London with her daughter and husband.
Going into yet another national championships, Kwan is expected to
win the gold for the ninth time, as none of the other American
skaters have skated a standing ovation-worthy program this fall.
Kwan does not think of herself as an underdog or a touted
champion. "It all depends on what the media feels like," she says
in her trademark good natured way. "I've been training really hard