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Californian girl?   Chinese girl?   Figure Skater?   American?   A legend?   An icon?  A role model? A fun-loving girl?


Michelle Kwan is all these....and more!







Born on July 7, 1980 at Torrance, California , Michelle Kwan is a role model for millions of children and teens.

She is famous as an American figure skater. But she is a legend because she has led a life of hard work and dedication towards becoming a better person.



In 2002, kids voted her as their Favorite Female Athlete at Time for Kids.


This is what Michelle Kwan wants kids to know about success:

o       Sometimes you need to sacrifice to achieve goals and dreams,

o       The importance of loving and respecting family and elders

o       And not to forget: doing something because it’s fun!




She is praised by many observers as a metaphor for sanity in her sport, the multi-dimensional, well-rounded young adult emerging from a sport that demands an almost-mindless devotion from its tiny teen stars.


Kwan serves as a national spokesperson for the Children's Miracle Network "Champions Across America" program.


About her future, the popular skater said she aspires to be "the Michael Jordan of my sport."


"You always keep on going at it and hope for the best," she said. "What you give is what you give back."






Her Chinese name is Kwan Wing Shan       Nickname: Shelly


Michelle Kwan wears a gold dragon necklace which her Grandma gave her many years ago.


When she was younger, she had a pet squirrel with a big bushy tail and evil eyes.


Her favorite actors are Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio.


Pastimes: Biking, bowling, swimming


 Earnings: $1 million a year from tours and promotions





Michelle was the third child of Danny and Estella Kwan, born on July 7th, 1980 in Torrance, California. Kwan has two older siblings: a brother Ron and sister, Karen. Her parents emigrated from Hong Kong in the late 1970's. The Kwan children were the very first native-born American children in the family. Michelle was born into an active family, as Ron enjoyed ice hockey and Karen took figure-skating lessons.

At age five, Michelle's parents took her to one of Ron's ice hockey games. It was here, that Michelle decided she too would like to lace up the skates. Little did she know that this was a decision that would forever change her life.

"I was wearing rental skates and eating Nerds candy," she remembered.


To pay for her childhood skating lessons, Kwan's parents mortgaged their home. "I learned from my parents that if you work hard enough, your dream just might come true," said the popular Kwan.


By 1990, the Kwan's hired esteemed coach Frank Carroll to lead and train Michelle towards championship level skating. Such a decision did not come without sacrifice, as the parents lived between two cities so Michelle could train in Lake Arrowhead with her coach and her father could stay at home and work as the breadwinner of the family.


From: Michelle Kwan, An American Icon





At age seventeen, Kwan was a "normal" teen -- a serious bargain shopper who loved roller coasters and music (but not head-banger music); a teen who kept a diary and swooned over Brad Pitt!

Michelle decided to go to university, to have a normal life. From an article Michelle  Kwan By Amy Klein:


“In class, Michelle, a Chinese-American, looks like any other university student. Wearing a baseball cap and no makeup, she's yawning after a sleepless night of studying.


  But outside of class, Michelle Kwan leads a very different life. Just 21 years old. She has already won four World Figure Skating Championships and the 1998 Olympic sliver medal . She stars in skating shows , commercials, TV specials and even a new video game. But Michelle doesn't skate for the money and fame. Since childhood, skating has given her joy-and plenty of challenges.


 "It gets harder every year." She says. But she still finds joy in skating.”


Sometimes, she escapes to her childhood as the time she was spotted skating at a pond:


Kwan wanted to be a child again, to be the 12-year-old who delighted herself with every new jump. When she talked at the beginning of the season about going back and finding the motivation again, that was what she meant. Back to a place where there was only a girl with a ponytail and an open sheet of ice.



    Kid finds that sweet spot, and everything melts away By John Powers, Boston Globe Staff, 1/20/2001







facing challenges


At age 15, Kwan was the U.S. and National figure skating champion and was expected to defend both titles in the year leading up to the 1998 Olympics at Nagano, Japan. However, she struggled with boots--she couldn't find ones that fit properly.


 She even struggled against her own body: Like most teenagers' bodies, Kwan's was changing. The natural development of her figure, and the 10 pounds of weight that came with it, made many of her spins and jumps more difficult.


 These obstacles caused her to stumble several times at the Nationals at Nashville in 1997, and she lost her title. Her failure was well-publicized; Sports Illustrated used four pages of color photos showing her falls in Nashville just days after the event.

"After my performance, I said, 'Hit me, Dad. Wake me up.' It was like someone else took over my body. My evil twin skated for me. But I threw her away. She doesn't live here anymore."


Michelle Kwan's Olympic dreams were nearly shattered when it was discovered between November and December that she had a stress fracture in her left toe. Her doctors were optimistic that if she stayed off the foot, she could have the chance to be recovered in time to skate at the U.S. Nationals and the Olympic Games. Michelle complied and as such healed in time for the 1998 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Philadelphia. Even with severely limited training, Michelle's performances during those championships were described as two of the greatest performances in U.S. history. She earned fifteen perfect scores in her two programs. Peggy Fleming, 1968 Olympic Champion and analyst for ABC sports said about her performance, "it was a blend of power and grace that left me in a state of wonderment.”


Her magnificent performance caused observers to begin comparing her to the greatest skaters in history.


"I love competing .I love the challenge. "Michelle's love of challenges shows today as she juggles skating with university studies. "I want more than just to be a skater," she says.


Source: 2 WHO MADE DEFEAT WORK FOR THEM by Bob Herzog   and  - Michelle Kwan, An American Icon






the only one

--She is the only skater in history with her own video game: Michelle Kwan Figure Skating, by EA Sports.


The winner of more perfect 6.0 marks than any other female skater in history






She began skating at age 5 and won her first competition at 7.

Michelle won her first World Junior Championship at 13.

After winning four of the past five World Figure Skating Championships, she  won the bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

She is a five-time recipient of SKATING magazine's Readers' Choice Award for figure skater of the year.






skating TIMELINE


1985 : 5 yrs. old


A star is born!

Sees elder brother Ron play ice hockey. Becomes interested in figure skating

Starts to figure-skate with elder sister Karen

1986 : 6 yrs. old

The first win

Enters her first skating competition and finishes first

1992: 11 yrs. old

Coach Caroll comes into her life

Coach Frank Caroll sees Michelle skate: athletic skills, joy, but no discipline! He decides she needs a coach.

1993: 12 yrs. old :

Youngest lady competitor of all time

At U.S. National Championships. Finishes a respectable 6th place


1994: Carefree 13 years old

The Promise of things to come

  • Silver medal, at 2nd place, behind Tonya Harding, at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Named alternate to the U.S. Olympic Team. Travels to Lillehammer, Norway but does not compete as the then-injured Nancy Kerrigan takes her spot and skates to the silver medal.
  • World Championships for the first time.  Finishes eighth and lets the world know that there are greater things to come




The finest program of her young career; the audience boos the judges’ decision.

Judges want a less child-like figure skater

  • Placed 2nd at Nationals, behind Nicole Bobek.
  • 4th at Worlds. She lands all of her jumps in an inspired performance to "Rondo Capriccioso." She was the only lady to land seven triples and to skate a clean program. This program leaves the audience on their feet and Michelle in tears of joy. When her scores are announced, the audience boos when Michelle finishes in fourth place. Soon after Frank Carroll notes, "The judges do not want a girl's champion, they want a ladies' champion. Michelle will need a more sophisticated look if she wants to win a championship among ladies."

1996: 15 yrs. old

Becomes world champion


Michelle Kwan captures all of figure- skating's biggest crowns. Armed with a more mature look, makeup, a shorter hairstyle, and much faster and sophisticated skating, Michelle Kwan wins 9 of the 10 competitions she enters that year. She claims her first U.S. championship at age 15, as well as her first World Championship. Michelle's "Salome" program garners presentation marks from 5.9 to 6.0 and handily defeats the previous year's World Champion Chen Lu of China.

1997: 16 yrs. old




Didn’t go quite as well, as her body changed and her confidence was shaken by the idea that she was defending her championships. Even so, she placed 2nd at both the National and World Championships. Rivalry with 14 year-old Tara Lipinski who won both championships

1998 : 17 yrs. old

Wins a silver medal at the Winter Olympics



  • 1998 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Philadelphia. She earned fifteen perfect scores in her two programs.
  • Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan Michelle Kwan did not win the gold medal that she dreamed of as she placed second to Tara Lipinski. Michelle admitted later that she had been more nervous than usual before her Olympic performance. "I think I was just too overwhelmed with everything that was going on," she said.



No giving up


Wins 3 of the 4 World Championships and all four U.S. Championships


Bronze at the Olympics


Again, Michelle faces disappointment at the 2002 Olympics by winning the bronze medal in Salt Lake City.

January 18th, 2003: 22 yrs. old

The most victorious U.S. lady skater of all time.


Skates a flawless program to "Aranjuez" to win her 7th U.S. National Championship. With the victory she increases her perfect mark total to 28, putting her 20 scores of 6.0 ahead of her childhood idol, Brian Boitano. She defeats the current Olympic Champion Sarah Hughes.





Source: Michelle Kwan, An American Icon  -

Kwan, Michelle. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 01 Feb, 2003

Kwan, Michelle. Heart of a Champion: An autobiography. New York: Scholastic Trade, 1997.

Kwan, Michelle. My Special Moments. New York: Hyperion Press, 2001.

Klein,Amy.Michelle Kwan Graphics by rita liu Talent+hard work +love of skating=world champion

Winfield, Heather. The Michelle Kwan Fanpage. [Updated 03 Feb 2003; cited 25 January 2003]








2 WHO MADE DEFEAT WORK FOR THEM by Bob Herzog July 15, 1998 Staff Writer Newsday, Inc


Kids Voice Their Choices! by Dina El Nabli TIME FOR KIDS -April 18, 2002-

Kwan, Michelle. Encyclopedia Britannica 2003 Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 01 Feb, 2003

Kwan, Michelle. Heart of a Champion: An autobiography. New York: Scholastic Trade, 1997.

Kwan, Michelle. My Special Moments. New York: Hyperion Press, 2001.

Winfield, Heather. The Michelle Kwan Fanpage. [Updated 03 Feb 2003; cited 25 January 2003]

Michelle Kwan, Heart of a Champion: an autobiography, by Michelle Kwan as told to Laura James. New York: Scholastic, c1997.

Michelle Kwan, by Sam Wellman. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, c1999.

Michelle Kwan By Amy klein/Graphics by rita liu Talent+hard work +love of skating=world champion

Michelle Kwan, An American Icon