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This is... the story of a girl....
Michelle Wing Kwan was born on July 7, 1980 in Torrence, California. She began skating at age 5 with her sister, Karen. She improved very quickly and found herself under the coaching of Frank Carroll in 1992.
Michelle had disasterous programs at her first Junior Nationals, finishing 9th. After that, she snuck off on her own to take the test to qualify as a Senior, without the permission of Frank. Frank was unhappy with Michelle's decision, for he wanted the judges to get to know her better. Michelle and Frank trained together quite extensively afterwards to prepare her for life as a Senior.
In the beginning of her life as a Senior, Michelle was skating in the shadow of the other skaters. In 1994 she placed 2nd, behind Tonya Harding, at the US Nationals. This was the year of the infamous Nancy Kerrigan Attack, and Nancy took Michelle's spot on the Olympics, so Michelle was sent to Lillehammer as an alternate instead. Michelle got lots of quality experience that year. She skated in her first World Championships, placing 8th.
In 1995, Michelle placed 2nd at Nationals, behind Nicole Bobek, and 4th at Worlds. She found that her image was more of a child, rather than a young adult, so with the help of Frank, her image changed. Michelle got rid of the childish ponytail and started wearing makeup. Her new look was much more mature.
As Salome, Michelle won both Nationals and Worlds in 1996. She proved that she was worthy of being a top skater.
The 1996/97 season was quite an eye-opener for Michelle. That summer, her friend Harris died of a heart attack. She finished behind newcomer Tara Lipinski at Nationals. This was a very tragic competition for Michelle. She also lost the World title to Tara that year.
In 1998, I started to REALLY watch Michelle. I had been following her career since 1994 Worlds, but didn't really get back into it until the hype of the next Olympic year. Michelle won Nationals, a great victory over Tara. In Nagano, Michelle skated a wonderful short program putting her in first, but she closed up in her long program. She also didn't have a very desirable spot going in, for she had to skate first in her group. Michelle went home with an Olympic Silver Medal, and the third of her three wishes went ungranted, but she would bring that wish with her to Salt Lake City in 2002. After the Olympics, Tara turned Pro. Michelle finished out the season winning all her competitions, regaining her World title.
In 1999, Michelle, with a new haircut, skated to her third National title. She placed a disappointing 2nd at Worlds, though, behind Maria Butyrskaya.
The 1999/2000 season was good to Michelle. She won both Skate America and Skate Canada, but got 2nd the the Grand Prix Final. At Nationals, she was behind Sasha Cohen going into the long program, but came back to win her fourth National title. In late March, she went to Nice, France, with Sarah Hughes and Angela Nikodinov (Sasha was unable to attend due to the age restriction and a 5th place finish at Junior Worlds) and fought her way from a 3rd place finish in both the qualifying round and short program to winning her third World title. After Worlds, Michelle took the spring quarter off at UCLA and began touring once again with Champions on Ice.
I like to call the 2000-2001 season "The Calm Before The Storm," although Michelle did not skate "calmly" through the season. She had a roller-coaster season, with losses at Skate Canada (to Irina Slutskaya), the Canadian Open (to Josee Chouinard), and the Hershey Kisses Challenge, and the Grand Prix Final (both to Irina). Michelle became a five-time US Champion, becoming the first since Peggy Fleming to win 5 US titles. Michelle also silenced the critics one more time as she won her 4th World Title, the first time she had ever won consecutive titles. She said "Good-bye" to the even-year curse. Michelle showed us that she is ready to take on the world in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Michelle has come a long way in her career. She is currently taking classes at UCLA, and plans on competing in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Color Block Line:
Original Photo © Michelle
Wojdyla, used with permission
small Romanza: © J. Barry Mittan