Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Michelle Wing Kwan (Kwan Ying Shan, 關穎珊) (born July 7, 1980) is a Chinese American figure skater, considered to be the sport's most determined figure during the late 1990s and early 2000s and one of the world's most famous figure skaters of the last half century.
Kwan has won five World Championships (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2003), the most by anyone in the ladies' division since Carol Heiss (1956 - 1960) with whom she is tied for the most wins by an American. She has won nine United States National Championships (1996, 1998-2005), tying the record for most set by Maribel Vinson-Owen (1928 - 1933, 1935 - 1937). She has also won a silver and a bronze Olympic medals, but not a gold. Among her many accolades, Michelle received the prestigious Sullivan Award in 2001. She has been awarded more than 40 perfect 6.0s in major competitions, the most of any skater in history.
Born in Torrance, California, Kwan is the third child of Chinese immigrants. At the age of five her love for figure-skating began as she followed after her two older siblings (one who played ice hockey and one who skated) onto the ice. Kwan's family moved to Lake Arrowhead, California, in 1991 to intensify her training with Frank Carroll, a leading figure skating coach. At the age of 12 in 1992 Kwan passed a test to become a senior level figure skater. In 1993 Kwan finished sixth at her first senior U.S. championships, and later that year she won the 1994 World Junior title.
In 1994, Kwan finished second to Tonya Harding at the U.S. championships, which ordinarily would have earned her a spot on the U.S. team to the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. However, that place was instead given to 1993 national champion Nancy Kerrigan, sidelined by an assault (eventually connected to Harding) after a practice session at those championships. The 13-year-old Kwan went to Lillehammer as an alternate.
By 1996 both Harding and Kerrigan had left the amateur level, leaving behind a sport badly damaged by the scandal and ready for a new star to help it regain its stature. That year Kwan won both the U.S. and World championships. Within a year however, the younger Tara Lipinski upstaged Kwan in both events. Kwan responded in 1998 by winning both the U.S. and World championships again. Although she was the favorite to win the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, Kwan was out-skated by Lipinski, then 15, with Kwan settling for second.
While Lipinski proceeded to turn professional, Kwan continued with determination to seek out an Olympic gold medal. In the years after Nagano, Kwan won four additional U.S championships (1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002) and two more World championships (2000 and 2001). Shortly before the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, she and Carroll parted ways. However, the 21-year-old Kwan, along with Russia's Irina Slutskaya, remained the favorites to win the gold medal. A combination of a flawed performance and the success of another young phenomenon, then 16-year-old Sarah Hughes, saw Kwan receive the bronze medal.
While the question of Kwan's retirement to the professional level continues to linger, she seems determined still to capture an Olympic victory. While a new generation of skaters has begun to emerge and present Kwan with new challenges, she has responded in kind; she has added three more U.S. championships (2003-2005, bringing her consecutive streak to an all-time record eight and total to a shared-record nine) and a fifth World championship (2003) to a list of her victories. In 2003, she hired noted technician Rafael Arutunian as her coach, with whom she has increased the technical difficulty of her programs. She continues to train, perhaps looking toward the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, for her gold medal.
In 1999 she appeared in Michelle Kwan Figure Skating computer game.
- "As a child, I'd wonder, 'When I die, will people still remember me 1,000 years later?' And without the gold medal ... Well, the Olympics are the ultimate achievement in my sport. At times I think, 'Why should I push myself all those long hours in the rink?' But then I think, 'How will I ever know how good I could have been?' I want to be the Michael Jordan of my sport." - Kwan, following the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. "I want to be the best, so im trying my hardest."
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