Sunday, February 12, 2006


Being Michelle Kwan

She even has a Barbie in her image!
Being Michelle Kwan must be a very tough job indeed, especially today, when she made the decision to withdraw from the Olympics due to what I'll call a "renewed" groin injury. Since I'd slept so much yesterday afternoon, I was up till all hours, and was rewarded by getting to see Kwan's withdrawal press conference live, at 2:30am PST. The journalists were trying to stir up even more drama by questioning whether Kwan's injury was indeed a new one, or simply an old one returning, and if the difference would have swayed the IOC for or against Emily Hughes taking Kwan's place. But Ueberroth et al. made it clear without saying so directly that Kwan was one of the sport's few premier skaters, and that figure skating was the premier event of the Olympics, so there was no negativity whatsoever to replacing Kwan with another American skater, and wouldn't have been no matter what the cause for Kwan's withdrawal might have been. If only journalists were as incisive with their questioning at those presidential press conferences.

For her part, Kwan was the spirit of elegance and reserve while still showing enough emotion to make the peanut gallery happy. She was dressed in black, and her face was set in a grave mask of mourning. While graciously answering questions, she kept her words to a minimum, and there was meaning and feeling behind every syllable she uttered. When asked about that "elusive" Olympic gold, she teared up, but said she was happy with her career as it was. What else was she going to say--I'll always regret it? Of course she won't. She's won more World Championships than anyone but Dick Button and Sonja Henie, and has dominated the sport for a decade. I remember what a joy it was to see her show up on the scene at 12 or 13, and what a wonderful honor it's been to watch her develop into a true artist. The fact that she's never won Olympic Gold is a mere technicality. She'll continue to go down in history as one of the very best ever. For now, though, she's headed home to L.A. to recover, and I think having truly made the right decision will help her healing process immensely.

Now Emily Hughes steps in, and I think she certainly has a shot, at least to make the top group. Out of all the American ladies, I think Kimmie Meisner is the one who might snatch a medal, probably bronze. I'm seeing Irina Slutskaya with the gold if she skates her best, and Shizuka Arakawa with the silver--she's a true warrior princess; the other two Japanese women are too high strung in competition, as is Cohen, though she could skate clean and take the whole thing: with Cohen it's always a crap shoot, though she has the best spirals in the business, hands down! The ladies competition doesn't start till February 21, so there's plenty of time for more drama if this hasn't already been enough for you. As for me, I just want to see them skate, and skate beautifully. Get the full schedule here if you haven't already.

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