One of the most important thing that I've discovered in myself is that you have to live for yourself, make yourself happy. It's difficult to try and please others. It has to come from the heart. [1]

Michelle Wingshan Kwan (born July 7, 1980) is an American figure skater. She has won nine U.S. championships, five World Championships, an Olympic Silver medal, and an Olympic Bronze medal. She has remained competitive for over a decade and is the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history. Known for her consistency and expressive artistry on ice, she is widely considered one of the greatest figure skaters of all time.

Latest NewsEdit

  • A recent LA Times article stated that Kwan is still a public diplomatic envoy, despite the change in presidential adminstrations. Kwan's original diplomacy appointment occurred the Bush administration. Kwan's blog discusses her latest trip to Ukraine as a State Department representative. [2]
  • The same LA Times article states that Kwan will be one of the commentators for NBC's broadcast of the World Figure Skating Championships later this week. [2]


Michelle Kwan's Kraft Commercial

Michelle Kwan's Kraft Commercial

Michelle Kwan Diplomatic Envoy

Michelle Kwan Diplomatic Envoy

Michelle Kwan's Triple Combo Salad - began airing on June 12, 2006 Kwan's work as a sports envoy
Michelle Kwan - 2002 Oly Ex - Field of Gold (High Quality)

Michelle Kwan - 2002 Oly Ex - Field of Gold (High Quality)

2002 Olympic Exhibition, "Fields of Gold"

Image GalleryEdit


  • In late 2005, Kwan participated in Starbucks' "The Way I See It Campaign" which publishes the thoughts, opinions and expressions of notable figures on Starbucks cups. Her quote was:
When I feel like I'm in a rut, I remember it's the little things in life that are important, like riding a bike with a friend or eating ice cream with my baby niece. [3]
  • Kwan's favorite figure skating outfit is a purple Vera Wang dress she wore at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT. Kwan felt glamorous every time she skated in it. Her second favorite costume is a red dress she wore during her flamenco short program in 1996. [1]
  • Kwan's most cherished figure skating memory is skating before an "amazing" crowd at the Houston Astrodome as part of the '93 Olympic Festival in San Antonio. [1]
  • One of Kwan's favorite moments from skating in Champions on Ice was hanging out and watching silly movies in the RVs with Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano before they went out on the ice. [1]
  • Kwan's most embarassing ice skating moment took place during a performance where the announcer called her name and she wiped out when taking her pose. [4]
  • Hip hop is the type of music Kawn listens to the most. She loves dancing to Justin Timerlake, J Lo, 50 Cent and Eninem. When she needs to relax she listens to Seal, Sade, Tracey Chapman and Eva Cassidy. [1]
  • Gladiator is one of Kwan's favorite movies because it inspired her to become warrior tough. She also likes the way Rudy inspires people to achieve their dreams.[1]


Chevyad si091701

Chevrolet ad which appeared in the February 12, 2002 issue of USA Today

I don't really remember a time younger than 5 years old that I didn't have skates on because all I can remember is every day, tying up my skates and a big smile on my face, excited to go on the ice. [5]
Don't close any doors unless you want them closed. [6]
Medals don't really mean anything, it is about the skating itself. If I stay around, it would be the skating itself. [6]
Usually I don't like to talk too much before I skate. I like to focus on the task at hand. I visualize my program and start warming up.[4]
I'll never forget and always be thankful for the sacrifices that my parents made for my skating. I wouldn't be where I am today without their support. My parents always encouraged my sister, brother and I to take up a sport. I don't ever remember a SINGLE moment that I felt like I was going to achieve as much as I have. But I do remember having fun competing, and loving the crowd cheering!! [1]
Being flexible is not something that came easily to me. I remember being the most unflexible skater in the world. Early on, the only time I could do the splits was in my dreams! What can I say but dreams do come true!! I stretched ever night. My dad would make fun of me because I would be stretching when we watched TV before bed. [1]

On why she stepped down from participating in the 2006 Olympics:

I respect the Olympics too much [7]

On her book The Winning Attitude:

It was a good idea for me to tell kids about my experiences and the dreams and goals I had growing up. I know that kids have dreams, but they don't know how to get there. They have to believe and understand what I'm saying and hopefully, it will help them. I hope kids can learn something from my experience and the steps I've taken to get where I am. I want kids to realize their dreams and make it happen. They have to believe in themselves and realize that it does take time, but they can do anything if they set their mind to it. [4]

Personal lifeEdit

Born in Torrance, California, Kwan is the third child of Danny and Estella Kwan, Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong. As a child, Kwan grew up speaking a mixture of Cantonese and English at home. In addition, she also speaks some conversational Mandarin. Kwan’s interest in figure skating began at the age of five when she followed her two older siblings (hockey player Ron and figure skater Karen) onto the ice. Karen and Michelle began serious training when Michelle was about eight years old. They practiced three to four hours a day, waking up at 3 am to skate before school and going back to the rink right after school to skate again. Paying for their increased skating-rink time led to financial hardship for Kwan’s working class family. Her mother took on a second job and her father started working extra hours to finance the rink time and coaching fees. Eventually the family decided to sell their house, but that still was not adequate to finance the children's skating careers. When Kwan was ten years old, her family could no longer afford a coach, but they were offered financial assistance by a fellow member of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club that allowed them to train at the Ice Castle International Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Kwan attended Soleado Elementary School in Palos Verdes, California, but left public school to be homeschooled starting at the age of 13. After graduation from Rim of the World High School in 1998, she attended UCLA for one year. In the fall of 2006 she transferred to the University of Denver with the intent of majoring in political science and minoring in international studies.

Public lifeEdit


This Caress ad campaign from 1998-99 made Kwan the first medalist to land a major endorsement deal after the Olympics. [8]


Kwan's Got Milk? ad premiered in March 2005

Ambassadorship EndeavorsEdit

Kwan dined with U.S. President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao during President Hu's 2006 state visit to the United States.

On November 9, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named Michelle Kwan as a public diplomacy ambassador. In this non-salaried position, Kwan will represent American values especially to young people and sports enthusiasts and is expected to travel widely. Kwan made her first overseas trip in the capacity of public diplomacy ambassador with a visit to China from January 17–January 25, 2007.


Kwan has guest starred as herself in "Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass", an episode of The Simpsons, and in the Family Guy episode "A Hero Sits Next Door". She has also made guest star appearances in the children's cartoon television series Arthur (TV series), and has also appeared in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. She provided the voice of a shopkeeper in Disney's direct-to-DVD sequel Mulan II, and she and fellow figure skater Brian Boitano appeared as announcers in the film Ice Princess. She has performed in numerous figure skating programs, and has cameo appearances in various other television series. In 1999, she appeared in the Michelle Kwan Figure Skating computer game.

Other activitiesEdit

Kwan wrote an inspirational book for children titled, The Winning Attitude: What it Takes to be a Champion. She also wrote an autobiography, Heart of a Champion, at 17.

In 2005, Michelle Kwan's family opened the EastWest Ice Palace in Artesia, California. The ice rink houses many of her skating medals and memorabilia.

Kwan has had numerous endorsement contracts and has appeared in television commercials for sponsors including Campbell's Soup, VISA, Coca-Cola, and Kraft. The Chevrolet/Michelle Kwan R.E.W.A.R.D.S. Scholarship program was established by the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors in cooperation with Kwan. In February 2006, Kwan was named a "celebrity representative" for The Walt Disney Company.

Competitive biographyEdit


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 Figure Skating Championships (1996, 1998–2005), tying the record for most set by Maribel Vinson-Owen (1928–1933, 1935–1937). Kwan's eight consecutive U.S. Championship titles (1998–2005) and 12 consecutive U.S. Championship medals (1994–2005) are both U.S. records. She is the only woman in figure skating history to reclaim the World title three times (1998, 2000, 2003).

Early competitionEdit


Kwan, age 12, skating in the 1993 US Figure Skating Championships

In 1991, Michelle and sister Karen began training with Frank Carroll. After one year of coaching by Carroll, 11-year old Michelle placed 9th at the junior level at the United States Figure Skating Championships. At the age of 12 in 1992, Kwan passed the final test to become a senior-level figure skater despite the disapproval of her coach. In 1993, Kwan finished sixth at her first senior U.S. championships. The next season, 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. That place, however, was instead given to 1993 national champion Nancy Kerrigan, who had been sidelined by an assault and battery (eventually connected to Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly), after a practice session at those championships. The 13-year-old Kwan went to Norway as an alternate but did not compete. Kerrigan and Harding both dropped out of eligible competition before the 1994 World Championships, where Kwan competed and finished eighth.

At the 1995 U.S. Championships, Nicole Bobek won the gold medal, while Kwan again placed second after struggling with her lutz jump in both the short program and free skate. She advanced to the 1995 World Championships. During her free skating performance, she landed 7 clean triple jumps—more than any other skater, and placed 4th.

Artistic development and 1998 OlympicsEdit


Kwan in a 1996 ad for Riedell figure skates -- her first major endorsement

Following 1995, Kwan developed a more mature style. Her new, more artistically expressive programs were "Romanza" (short program) and "Salome" (free skate). She also improved her speed and her jump technique, and performed more difficult choreography. In 1996, Kwan won both the U.S. Championships and the World Championships. In the latter event, she edged out defending champion Chen Lu in a very close competition in which both competitors garnered two perfect 6.0s for Presentation in the free skate.

In the 1996–97 season, Kwan skated to "Dream of Desdemona" (short program) and "Taj Mahal" (free skate). It was during this year that Kwan debuted a change-of-edge spiral, which is still considered her signature move. However, in this season, Kwan struggled with her figure skater because of a growth spurt and problems with new skating boots which she wore for an endorsement contract with the manufacturer. She fell twice and stumbled once in her free skate at 1997 U.S. Nationals. She also lost the Champion Series Final and World titles to Tara Lipinski that season.

Kwan regained her U.S. title from Lipinski at the 1998 championships, in spite of competing with a toe injury. Many people consider her performances of her Rachmaninoff short program and free skate set to William Alwyn's "Lyra Angelica" at the 1998 U.S. Championships to be the high point of her career from both a technical and artistic standpoint. The performance earned her eight perfect 6.0s and left one judge in tears.

She was the co-favorite to win the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. She won the silver medal, with the gold medal being won by rival Tara Lipinski and the bronze medal by Chen Lu. Lipinski and Chen both retired from competitive skating shortly after the Olympics, while Kwan went on to win the 1998 World Championships in Minneapolis.

A controversy was sparked when MSNBC used the headline "American Beats Kwan" to report the result of the Nagano competition. The headline, according to Joann Lee, Associate Professor and Director of Journalism at Queens College in New York City, implied that Kwan is not American. MSNBC subsquently issued an apology.

From 1998 to 2002 OlympicsEdit

Kwan continued to compete as an eligible skater in the 1998–99 season, although she bypassed the fall Grand Prix season and instead chose to skate in a series of made-for-television pro-am events. Her "regular" competitive programs that season were "Fate of Carmen" (short program) and "Lamento D'Ariane" (free skate). At the 1999 U.S. Championships, competing against a weak field, Kwan attained her third title. At the 1999 World Championships, Kwan did not skate her best, and placed second behind Russian competitor Maria Butyrskaya.

Kwan's win at the 2000 U.S. Nationals was controversial to some. She was criticized for planning an easier jump in her short program than her competitors (a triple toe loop rather than a triple flip), and then she fell on this element in the competition. The judges nevertheless placed her third in that segment behind younger challengers Sasha Cohen and Sarah Hughes; however, the placement still kept her in contention for the title. Ultimately, she won the free skate with the best performance of the night, capturing 8 of the 9 first-place ordinals. At the 2000 World Championships, Kwan was again in third place after the short program, behind Butyrskaya and Irina Slutskaya. In her free skate, Kwan landed seven triples, and won that segment of the competition. Butyrskaya lost her commanding lead by finishing only third behind Slutskaya in the free skate, allowing Kwan to win the overall title as well.

In 2001, Kwan again won the U.S. Championships, receiving first-place ordinals from all 9 judges in both the short program and free skate. At the 2001 World Championships, Kwan was second behind Slutskaya in the short program. Kwan won the title with her "Song of the Black Swan" free skate, executing 7 triples, including a triple toe loop/triple toe loop combination.

In the fall of 2001, Kwan and Carroll decided to end their coaching relationship. In interviews, Kwan said she needed to "take responsibility" for her skating. Coachless, Kwan arrived at the 2002 U.S. Championships in Los Angeles amid the media's scrutiny over her separation with Carroll and her season's inconsistencies. Kwan won the competition with a revived "Rachmaninoff" short program and a new "Scheherazade" program for her free skate, securing a place on the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Joining her on the team were Sasha Cohen (second) and Sarah Hughes (third). The 21-year-old Kwan, along with Russia's Irina Slutskaya, were favorites to win the gold. Kwan led after the short program, followed by Slutskaya, Cohen, and Hughes. In the free skate, a combination of a flawed performance by Kwan (two-footing her combination and falling on her flip), a perfect performance of Sarah Hughes, and Irina Slutskaya beating Kwan in the free skate, saw Kwan receive the bronze medal. Kwan finished the 2002 season with a second place finish at the World Championships.

Continued competitionEdit

Kwan WM2004 1

Michelle Kwan skating in the 2004 World Figure Skating Championships Exhibition in Dortmund, Germany

While the question of her retirement to the professional level lingered, Kwan continued to compete on the Olympic-eligible circuit. She added three more U.S. championships (2003–2005) and a fifth World championship (2003) to her list of victories. Her wins at Nationals brought her consecutive winning streak to an all-time record eight and her title total to a shared record of nine.

Coached by Scott Williams, Kwan won all phases of every competition she entered in the 2002–2003 competitive season with her programs: "The Feeling Begins" (short program) and "Concierto de Aranjuez" (free skate). She won the U.S. Championships again and regained her World title.

In 2003, she hired noted technician Rafael Arutunian as her coach, with whom she attempted to increase the technical difficulty of her programs. In the 2003–2004 competitive season, she skated again to "The Feeling Begins" for her short program, and "Tosca" for her long program. Again, Kwan won the U.S. Championships. At the 2004 World Championships, after a difficult qualifying round, Kwan was penalized in her short program for going two seconds over time. Then, just as she was about to start her free skate, there was a disruption caused by a spectator entering the ice surface, who had to be removed by security staff. In the end, Kwan placed third at the championships behind Shizuka Arakawa of Japan and Sasha Cohen.

During the fall seasons of 2002 to 2004, Kwan competed in only one Grand Prix event, Skate America in the fall of 2002, which she entered as a last-minute replacement. She won the event and qualified for the Grand Prix Final but chose not to compete in it. Kwan chose to not compete in Grand Prix events in the 2003 and 2004 seasons where the new judging system was being used.

For the 2004–2005 competitive season she skated a long program to the "Boléro" music made famous by ice dancers Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean two decades before, and debuted a new short program, "Adagio" from Aram Khachaturian's ballet Spartacus. At the U.S. Championships, she won her 9th title, tying the all-time record previously set by Maribel Vinson-Owen. Interestingly, Vinson-Owen had coached Frank Carroll, who in turn coached Kwan. At the 2005 World Championship, Kwan fell on her triple salchow and two-footed a triple lutz. She finished fourth, missing third place by 0.37 points. For the first time since 1995, Kwan finished off the podium at the World Championships. Later, Kwan commented that her lack of experience with the new scoring system had affected her performance.

2006 OlympicsEdit

Kwan press conference

Kwan announcing her withdrawal from the 2006 Olympics at a press conference held on February 12, 2006

Kwan looked at the 2005 Worlds as a learning experience in the ISU Judging System. She continued to train and stated that she would attempt to qualify for the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. However, following a hip injury, she was forced to withdraw from her three planned competitions in the fall of 2005. Kwan skated her new short program ("Totentanz") at a made-for-TV event in December, 2005, but her performance was well below her usual standard. On January 4, 2006, Kwan withdrew from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships with an abdominal injury incurred in December 2005. One week later, she filed a petition with the USFSA for a medical waiver to be placed on the 2006 Olympic figure skating team." The Turin organizing committee accepted the USOC's application for Emily Hughes (who had finished third at the U.S. Championships) to compete as Kwan's replacement.

After her withdrawal from the Olympic team, Kwan turned down an offer to stay in Turin as a figure skating commentator for NBC Sports. During an interview with Bob Costas and Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan said she was not retiring yet. If she continues to compete until the 2010 Olympics, she will be 29 years old.

Injury and continued careerEdit

After completing the spring and summer Champions on Ice tour, Kwan underwent elective Arthroscopic surgery in August 2006 to repair a torn labrum in her right hip, an old injury which she traces back to 2002. Kwan did not compete during the 2006–2007 figure skating season. Kwan told the Associated Press in October 2007 that she would decide in 2009 if she plans to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Awards and accoladesEdit

Kwan is a recipient of the prestigious James E. Sullivan Award (2001), which is given to America's best amateur athlete; she was the first figure skater to win the award since Dick Button won it in 1949. In 2003 she was named the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) "Sportswoman of the Year", and is the 5th figure skater in history to receive this honor. She has also been named USOC "Athlete of the Month" 14 times, which is more than any other athlete, male or female, as well as being named "Female Figure Skating Athlete of the Year" by the USOC multiple times. She is also the recipient of the USOC's "Citizenship Through Sports Alliance Award" (2004).

Kwan is the only multiple winner of the "Readers' Choice Figure Skater of the Year" award given by Skating magazine (1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001–2003). In 2003, the United States Figure Skating Association, which publishes Skating, announced that the award would be renamed the "Michelle Kwan Trophy." The USFSA stated that although Kwan may continue to skate competitively, she will no longer be eligible for this award. She also appeared on International Figure Skating Magazine's "25 Most Influential Names in Figure Skating List" seven times, and was named the most influential skater for the 2002–03 season.

In 1999, she was given the Historymakers Award by the Los Angeles Chinese American Museum. In January 2009 she was appointed a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports by George W. Bush.

Competitive highlightsEdit

Major events for Olympic-eligible skaters include the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, World Figure Skating Championships, the Olympic Winter Games, and the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating. Kwan's record in these events is listed by season in the tables below.

Event 1998–1999 1999–2000 2000–2001 2001–2002 2002–2003 2003–2004 2004–2005 2005-2006
Winter Olympic Games 3rd withdrew
World Championships 2nd 1st 1st 2nd 1st 3rd 4th
U. S. Championships 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st
Grand Prix Final 2nd 2nd 2nd
Skate America 1st 1st 1st 1st
Skate Canada 1st 2nd 3rd
Goodwill Games 2nd
Event 1991–1992 1992–1993 1993–1994 1994–1995 1995–1996 1996–1997 1997–1998
Winter Olympic Games 2nd
World Championships 8th 4th 1st 2nd 1st
World Junior Championships 1st
U. S. Championships 9th J. 6th 2nd 2nd 1st 2nd 1st
Champions Series Final 1st 2nd
Skate America 7th 2nd 1st 1st 1st
Skate Canada 1st 1st
Trophée Lalique 3rd 1st
Nations Cup 1st
Gardena Spring Trophy 1st
Goodwill Games 2nd 1st
  • J = Junior level


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Michelle Kwan Online Interview, Golden Skate. October 19, 2003.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Michelle Kwan's Diplomatic Skills, Helene Elliott, LA Times' The Fabulous Forum. March 3, 2009.
  3. Endorsements|Starbucks, The Michelle Kwan Fan Page.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 An Interview with Michelle Kwan, taken from the January 2000 issue of Blast magazine.
  5. Cool on the ice: Skating star sets sights on Goodwill Games, 2002 Olympics, CNN's People in the News.
  6. 6.0 6.1 AP Interview: Michelle Kwan uncertain about future, but could remain Olympic eligible, Tribe. Posted April 5, 2006.
  7. Figure skating loses Kwan's enduring elegance, Christine Brennan, USA Today. February 12, 2006.
  8. Endorsements|Caress, The Michelle Kwan Fan Page.

External linksEdit

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