Michelle Kwan is an internationally recognized figure skater from the United States. She won her first World Championship when she was sixteen, and is today considered one of the greatest skaters of all time. Kwan is a two-time Olympic medalist who has also enjoyed success in show business.
Kwan began skating as a small child after seeing her older brother and sister (a hockey player and figure skater, respectively) practicing on the ice. She quickly grew in skill with 3-4 hour practices each day and some coaching, though it was difficult for her parents–both working-class Chinese immigrants–to play for Kwan’s expenses. She left public school in favor of homeschooling when she was in eighth grade in 1994, the same year she won her first championship (the World Junior Championships in Colorado Springs).
Though her coach had previously opposed her decision to compete as a senior-level skater, Kwan quickly showed she had more than enough talent to win against her more seasoned competitors. However, she still struggled with jumps, placing second in the 1995 U.S. Championships due to difficulties in both her short and free programs (though she proceeded to cleanly execute seven triple jumps in the World Championships that same year, finishing fourth).
Beginning in 1996, Kwan began to explore a more artistic style, with programs inspired by the opera Salome and Shakespeare’s “Othello.” By the end of the 1990s, she had competed both with and against her fellow skater Tara Lipinski at Skate America, the Champions Series Final, the 1998 National Championships, the U.S. Championships, and the Olympic Games in Japan. Her short program set to a piano trio by Rachmaninoff at the ’98 U.S. Championships is widely considered to be Kwan’s finest performance, and reportedly caused one judge to weep openly. That same year, Kwan also performed as the Disney character Fa Mulan in Reflections on Ice, where she skated to the soundtrack of the movie Mulan.
Kwan retired from skating in 2009 to concentrate on her graduate schooling, and is currently a senior analyst for Fox Sports.
Awards & Championships
- 1994 – World Junior Championships Gold Medal
- 1995 – Grand Prix Final Gold Medal
- 1996 – World Championships Gold Medal
- 1996 – Grand Prix Final Silver Medal
- 1997 – World Championships Silver Medal
- 1998 – World Championships Gold Medal
- 1998 – Olympic Games Silver Medal
- 1999 – Grand Prix Final Silver Medal
- 1999 – World Championships Silver Medal
- 2000 – World Championships Gold Medal
- 2000 – Grand Prix Final Silver Medal
- 2001 – World Championships Gold Medal
- 2001 – Grand Prix Final Silver Medal
- 2002 – Olympic Games Bronze Medal
- 2002 – World Championships Silver Medal
- 2003 – World Championships Gold Medal
- 2004 – World Championships Bronze Medal