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by Alina Adams

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Friday, January 06, 2006


As even non-figure-skating fans know by now, nine-time US Ladies Champion Michelle Kwan has withdrawn from Nationals due to injury but is still petitioning for a spot on the Olympic team.

Over the past 48 hours, the blogosphere, as well as the more traditional media, have gone crazy debating whether or not her petition should be granted.

The Pro-camp has one argument: She is Kwan.

The Anti have several. Most of which boil down to: Based on her performance at the World Championships last year (4th place), as well as her lack of international appearances this season, Kwan has proven herself incapable of winning a medal for the U.S. Better to send a young up-and-comer like Alisa Szisny or Kimmie Meissner or Emily Hughes who can gain some valuable competition experience and position herself for a medal in 2010.

The Pro camp does have precedent on their side. In 1994, U.S. Silver Medalist Kwan was bumped off the Olympic team in favor of a recovered Nancy Kerrigan. (The title that year went to Tonya Harding, who was subsequently stripped of it when convicted of being involved in the attack on Nancy. The national crown, however, was left blank, rather than given to Michelle. If it had been, she would currently be the record holder for most Ladies titles ever).

Two years earlier, in 1992, the same thing happened to Men's Bronze Medalist Mark Mitchell, who lost his spot on the Olympic team to Todd Eldredge. Eldredge, not fully recovered from his back injury, ended up finishing 10th at the Olympics (teammates Paul Wylie and Christopher Bowman were 2nd and 4th respectively). Mitchell was sent to Worlds, instead, where he finished 5th -- to Eldredge's 7th.

However, just to make things interesting, in 1996, defending National champion and World Bronze medalist Nicole Bobek, who had to pull out of the US Championship due to an ankle injury, was denied a bye to the 1996 World Championship despite the fact that ABC announcer Dick Button was so certain it would happen he went off the air for the night predicting it.

Yet, the United States Figure Skating Association said no. They never offered a concrete reason why. Because they didn't have to. Unlike some other sports, the U.S. Nationals are very specifically just Nationals, not World/Olympic trials. The USFSA still has utter discretion to name any team they see fit. (Speculation ran that the USFSA had decided to punish Nicole for the manner in which she received her injury. Instead of training for Nationals, Nicole accepted $90,000 to, along with Todd Eldredge, appear in a tour of "Nutcracker on Ice." The USFSA believed that their athletes should be home practicing, not on the road padding their bank accounts, and they decided to send their message, loud and clear, courtesy of Nicole.)


In the end, none of that matters.

Kwan should go to the Olympics for one reason and one reason only. And it's not because she's wonderful and gracious and inspirational and photogenic. It's because, while Michelle Kwan may have proven herself no longer a favorite for the gold medal, none of her potential replacements have proven themselves capable of achieving a better result. Yes, Emily Hughes is a Junior World Bronze Medalist, and Kimmie Meissner landed the first Triple Axel at the Nationals since Tonya Harding, and Alissa Czisny qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

But, a Junior World Medal is still a medal just among Juniors, and Kimmie hasn't landed the Triple Axel in competition since, and Alissa finished last at the Grand Prix, behind five women whom Michelle had, at one time or another, all beaten before.

Even though the Olympics have proven to be Michelle's Achilles Heel (2nd in 1998 behind Tara Lipinski, 3rd in 2002 behind Sarah Hughes and Irina Slutskaya), she is still head and shoulders above all the other possibilities.

So if the USFSA is still so eager to season their youngsters, send them to Worlds in March 2006. Or, better yet, send Michelle there, too. She's much more likely to earn a spot high enough to qualify three U.S. women to compete there again in 2007. Which is when Czisny, Meissner and Hughes can really start their hunt for the 2010 Olympic Gold. (An opportunity they won't have in 2007 if the Ladies' team doesn't perform well in 2006).

In the meantime, send Kwan. For, injured or not, new scoring system or not, she is still, quite simply, the Kween.

(For the record, I find Michelle's programs repetitive and overly arm-flappy. But I still stand by my argument).


  • At January 07, 2006 1:58 PM, Andi said…

    Okay, my dear, I SO respect your take on the sport and your opinion and I SO disagree with you on this one. But then, I'm not a Kwan fan, never have been. I understand she's great but for the past 2 seasons I have SO wanted her to move on and make room. Enough already. Not to mention that she really thinks after rehabbing a hip injury and now a groin injury she'll be read in 5 weeks? After not really competing this year - not to mention her apparently inability to make points under thenew COP (which surprises me since she really is an "all round skater") but I do NOT want to see her in the US delegation. Enough already. I want her to move ON and let someone else skate. Who? Pretty much I don't care - Cohen is an absolutely if she's healthy and maybe Czisny. But Kwan is not going to get that goldmedal she seems to think she is entitled to and keeps trying for - her skills are not up to Olympic level any more.
    I thought what they did to Bobek sucked; I don't think it's the same thing here. But then I didn't think Todd should have gone the last time either.
    Grumble, grumble, curmudge, curmudge.

  • At January 09, 2006 7:10 AM, Anonymous said… who is Michelle holding back? I thought the idea is to send the best delegation that the United States could? If Kimmie or Alissa can make the cut, so be it. They'll have their chance this coming weekend. I have yet to see Sasha C. skate a clean Nationals or Olympics. Again, if she can, let her go. In my humble opinion, let's see what the skaters actually do in the Nationals before throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  • At January 10, 2006 8:11 PM, Anonymous said…

    Great site.

    I agree with you that Kwan should get a spot on the Olympic team. Not for sentimental reasons, but because who else is there? Besides Cohen, who only managed a Silver medal in her one Grand Prix appearance, who has done anything but Cziny this year? And she was wretched at the Grand Prix finals.

    If it were down to Cohen, and a couple of other Americans who had really excelled in the Grand Prix, I could see passing over Kwan for the future. But these girls -- Hughes, Meisner, Cziny -- aren't the future yet, much less the present.

    I actually am a Kwan fan, but I think she's a long shot to make the podium at the Olympics. However, that's not the point. We should send our best 3, and there's no way anyone can convince me that there are 3 American women better than Kwan.

    As for the injury -- well, Kerrigan recovered in five weeks. And Michelle had a foot injury in December before Nagano, and came back to win Nationals in January. Five weeks is a long time, and this groin injury is relatively common and fast-healing from reports. She's been competing at senior/international level since she was 12. Does anyone really think she can't land a triple lutz after a couple of weeks off the ice? Come on!

  • At January 11, 2006 4:02 PM, Andi said…

    HAS she landed a triple lutz this year? I don't believe so. So put me down as someone who doesn't think she CAN pull it off. As for "injury" a groin pull isn't the same as a bruise on the knee. Anyone remember HOW long it took Elvis to recover from a groin injury - and he was as healthy as anyone out there. anyone remember Randy Gardner having to quit at the last second after a groin pull? It's a nasty injury - we know that. Kwan had one injury and is now dealing with a second in several weeks. but I see i'm very much in the minority here. Oh well - not the first time, or the last. I'm not big on Weiss or Goebel representing us either.

  • At January 25, 2006 1:10 PM, Anonymous said…

    I've apologized up top and now I'm apologizing in person. AOL never let me see your posts, which is why I didn't respond. Great debate. Michelle sees the committee today. I guess we'll know soon enough if it's Michelle or Emily...


  • At February 13, 2006 10:51 AM, KwanFan said…

    I was right to believe in Michelle. We all were. I based my faith not on blindness but upon past experience, on her past experience. 9 time national champion, 5 time world champion. When she said she would be ready I believed in her. I was right to do it. She's lived up to expectations before and I assumed she could do it again. I stand by my assumptions.

    It was right for the USFSA to send Kwan to the Olympics. Precedence had been established, rules were maintained, protocol was followed. No one anticipated a re-injury and Kwan was given the benefit of the doubt which she earned over the course of a decade. Period. Dissenters on this issue are nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacks.

    Promoters of the campaign to Give Someone Else A Chanceā„¢ are ignorant of the sport, and rely upon widespread fabrication in the media. The incessant referrals to "olympic trials" in figure skating and the constant description that Hughes had been removed, 'bumped' from a team she was never placed on to begin with only represent journalism at it's worst.

    The olympics brings out the worst in journalists. And journalists in turn bring out the worst of the olympics. The whole concept of the gold medal is over blown in the media, which itself feeds the corporate frenzy that reporters giving "commentary" try so desperately to suppress and deny.

    I reject theories of conspiracy and pre-meditation. I reject the idea that Kwan designed this outcome from the date the petition was filed solely to satisfy her sponsors. I saw her face during the practice session, I saw her face during the press conference. She wasn't acting. She's in hell right now.

    Corporate sponsorship of the olympics is real and necessary. Sponsorship of the olympics by Coke, Visa, and other corporations contributes more than 40% of olympic marketing revenue and helps pay for the $10 billion olympic games. Opponents of corporate sponsorship of the games are welcome to throw the title to their car and the title to their house into the collection plate for the 2010 games.

    I reject the intractable ageism of Kwan's critics and their not so subtle efforts to push her out of the sport. Many athletes return to the olympic games to try to win multiple medals and Kwan has been no exception. Kwan herself will decide if and when she's ready to retire and loyal fans will support her decision.

  • At February 16, 2006 11:35 PM, SkateFan said…

    michelle choked!!!!! That's what some may say.....

  • At February 24, 2006 8:16 AM, Anonymous said…

    Michelle's time was over two Nationals ago. She was a one-person media for the 2005 Nationals. For three months before Nationals she kept getting in front of the camera stating that she felt like a legacy to tie for the number of times for National Champion. Clearly she was outskated - but her PR campaign worked.

    Then the new system came to place - and she knew she couldn't pull if off - hence her 4th place at her only competition in 11 months. She knows enough about skating injuries to know the approximate healing times. So just when she could get ready for Nationals 2006 - she conveniently gets another injury - one that would heal in time for the Olympics. But just as I predicted - she knew she couldn't compete in the new system but with a place on the team could land contracts and bow out. Too bad she didn't give Emily the chance to walk the Opening Ceremony. Smart but selfish cookie.

  • At February 25, 2006 12:05 AM, SkateFan said…

    OMG....the broad from Russia chocked 2...Sasha Cohen is a walking diaster....Michelle if you read this blog ..get your @#?! together girlfriend for Vancouver.....Lets get the GOLD....

  • At February 25, 2006 12:05 AM, SkateFan said…

    OMG....the broad from Russia chocked 2...Sasha Cohen is a walking diaster....Michelle if you read this blog ..get your @#?! together girlfriend for Vancouver.....Lets get the GOLD....

  • At February 25, 2006 1:06 PM, Anonymous said…

    Sasha Cohen couldnt pull through again. Bless her heart. But I think she should have got the bronze and Irina got the silver. Emily and Kimmie need to get their act togther if they want any medal in Vancouver. Emily is only getting attention because her sister won the gold. Sarah did deserve the gold that night but that is all she has to show for, just like Tara. They both had one good night and everyone thinks there the best of the best. Puleeeease....
    What I don't understand is everyone is asking Irina if she will continue to Vancouver and she says she doesnt know, we'll see. Same thing with Sasha, "we'll see how my body permits." Same thing with Japan's gold medalist. Why dont these women receive the criticism as Michelle did when she wanted to participate one more time. (Sasha won the Nationals because she was the only veteran competing; she had no real competition) Basically what I'm trying to say is that Irina is older than Michelle by 2 years so therefore I think they both need to get their @!#@$! together and get ready for Vancouver for a showdown. Who else is better than them???? Who are they holding back???

  • At June 01, 2006 1:11 AM, Anonymous said…

    No harm, no foul. Michelle got her shot, and rightfully so, but could not take advantage of it, so the vivacious Emily Hughes got her shot and ran with it. She performed with vigor and enthusiasm that so many of the other competitors lacked, and from all accounts, she seemed to be loving her experience at the Olympics. It's the perfect solution: even though Michelle could not compete, no one involved was denied an opportunity that they earned and/or deserved.


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