This is my first time trying this, so let's see how it goes. Below is an interview with Michelle Kwan that was conducted in English, translated into Russian, then re-translated back into English...Five time world champion Michelle Kwan – “I will definitely be back”Translation of an exclusive interview with Michelle Kwan (MK) by Oleg Chikiris (OC) a correspondent of the Russian language newspaper “Sovetskij Sport” published on June 21, 2007.
The famous American figure skater spent a whole week in Russia. In addition to Moscow, she visited Elista and Volgograd. This time, Michelle came to Russian to conquer diplomatic, rather than sports heights. Last year she was appointed Citizen Ambassador by the US State Department.
OC – Michelle, does anyone recognize you in Moscow except Americans?
MK – Not on the streets, but just recently a man approached me in the store and asked me if I was Kwan. I had to confess. Until now I was in Moscow only once – at the World Championship of 2005. At that time my acquaintance with Moscow was standard for visiting sportspeople – hotel/sport’s arena/hotel. But even while we were driving this route I could see how beautiful the city was and my coach – Rafael Arutunjan was giving me on our way a short tour of the city. This time I was able to walk in the center of the city, to visit the Red Square. It is much warmer here now than it was two years ago. Also, I visited Elista and Volgograd.
OC – This time you came as a Citizen Ambassador. What is included in your duties?
MK - It is not a new position for me. I was representing my country when I was skating and now I continue this mission in a different capacity. I came to Russia for the celebration of 200 years of establishing diplomatic relations between our countries. It is hard to believe that only after 31 years of creation of the USA, our countries established diplomatic relations. I was meeting with students here and I was telling them about my life, about my dreams and my sports career and my life lessons. I hope that my example will help them to be successful.
OC – How did you prepare for your visit to Russia?
MK- I read a lot of books about your country and learned a lot of facts. For example I learned that you last Tsar, Nicolas II, liked horses and participated in races and his jockey was an American. Or that in 1948, Russians and Americans were competing for the chess crown. Incidentally, when I visited the region of Kalmikia, I was taken to the Chess-City. I remember this wonderful feeling – on one side was the city of Elista and on the other there was the Chess-City. Actually I feel myself as a representative of sports diplomacy. The world Olympic movement includes 200 countries. Sports make countries to be closer to each other. Not only Russians enjoy the performances of Sharapova or Ovechkin or Plushchenko. The same way not only Americans enjoy the games of Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.
OC – How did you become a Citizen Ambassador for the US State Department?
MK – At the end of last year I was invited to the White House during the visit there of the Chinese premier Ho-Tzin-Tao. It happened that I was sitting at the table with him, our President and Condaleeza Rice. When I was saying goodbye, I told Ms. Rice that if I could be of help, she could call me. Some times later I received an invitation to become a Citizen Ambassador.
OC – Do you really like what you do?
MK – Believe me, it is really very interesting. I am a student of Denver University. I study political sciences and international relations. Thus it is very important for me to exchange my thoughts with young people worldwide.
OC – If I am not mistaken, Ms. Rice was a student at the same school and at the same department.
MK – Yes, she was, and please do not forget that she was also a figure skater.
OC – Seeing so many coincidences, are you preparing to become a Secretary of State?
MK – Everything may happen. Incidentally, when Ms. Rice offered me a position of Citizen Ambassador, she suggested that some day I may very well take her place.
OC – When you were active in sports you were different from other skaters in a way that you behaved in a very dignifying manner when you lost a competition. You did not complain and did not blame the judges. You did not get involved in dirty tricks behind the scenes. Was it a result of your upbringing or even then you were preparing yourself for a diplomatic career?
MK- Oh, no, I was not thinking then of a diplomatic career. My parents taught me that figure skating was just a sport and it was not a matter of life and death. You almost never win all the time or lose all the time. The main thing is – regardless of the result to keep moving forward.
OC – Did you have a chance to meet with your friend – Irina Slutskaya while you were in Moscow?
MK – Unfortunately not. I could not reach her on the phone. I hope to see her at the reception at the American Embassy. I made sure that she was sent an invitation. I am not sure if she would come since she is pregnant.
OC – For such an individual sport as figure skating, your friendship with Irina is a unique event. It is not common that direct competitors would be also friends. Most times their relations are hostile. How did it happen that you became friends with Irina?
MK - We really were competitors for about 10 years. I was about 13 when we first met at the competitions. Then there were nine World championships, two Olympic games. Initially we just met in the bus on the way to the rink, and than began to hang out together not only on the rink, but outside as well. I think that we have a similar mentality with Irina. We never set a goal to defeat a particular sportsperson, but rather to do the best we could. I think that was why we understood each other so well.
OC - Besides your common views on life, you have another similarity – you both were eternal favorites, but never won Olympic Gold. Irina said recently that she would participate in Olympics in Vancouver. Do you want to renew your sports career as well?
MK – Last August I had a serious operation on my hip. To regain my form I was running 4-5 miles every day and exercised a lot. Everybody asked me if I wanted to become a professional, but I am not ready to close the doors on a big sport yet.
OC – But you are 26 – you may be too old for the contemporary figure skating.
MK –Yes, you are right. Many people tell me that I am too old to continue my sports career. But than I remembered an example of Maria Butyrskaya. She was 29 when she competed. At that time I thought that it was terrible, she was too old and that people at that age were supposed to walk with a cane. But then Maria won the Worlds! I calculated that I will be exactly 29 in 2010. If Butyrskaya could do it, why couldn’t I!
OC – Do you mean that your fans could see you in the upcoming season?
MK- I do not plan my life so far in advance, but rather concentrate on what I am doing now. When you do too many things at the same time, it is impossible to get good results. But sooner or later I will definitely come back to figure skating. I think that I am in the same position as Evgeny Plushchenko. He became a father, he has his ice show and everyone wants him to give a definite answer. I think that a person has to make a decision not when he is pressured to, but when he wants to.
OC – By the way, Pluschenko had already announced that he will take part in several tours this fall. Also, it is possible that Alexey Yagudin could come back as well.
MK – Yagudin? You must be joking!
OC – At least it is what he is saying.
MK – Oh, these are two different things – to say and to do. Incidentally where is Yagudin now?
OC – I do not know for sure, but I think that he is in his native Saint Petersburg.
MK – Oh, I thought that he lived in Moscow. It is too bad that I would not be able to see him. What is he doing now?
OC – He is participating in the television show and skating in the tours of Ilja Averbuch.
MK – Oh, I know that you have your ice shows – Totmjaninova and Marinin told me about them.
OC – Foreign stars are also participating in our ice shows. Sasha Cohen, Brian Joubert and Chinese couples. By the way, did they invite you to participate in the shows?
MK- No, everyone knew about my trauma and the operation and it did not make sense for them to call me.
OC – What do you think about the rivalry between Pluschenko and Yagudin? Do you think that it moved forward the figure skating?
MK – It was something unbelievable. The fans loved it because no one could predict the winner in this duel. I vividly remember the competition of Evgeny and Alexey at the 2002 Olympics. When Pluschenko performed a triple jump in a short program I was screaming in amazement together with the spectators. I hope that we may become the witnesses to their competition again.
OC – What can you tell us about the technical side of their competition? It seems that they were jumping almost all of the quads.
MK – I was skating with Evgeny in the same tour and I know how difficult it was to skate after him, when the public was still in ecstasy after his quad jumps. Believe me, it was not simple. I can imagine what effect he has on the spectators if I, a professional skater, was delighted by his jumps. In general, Evgeny is an unusual skater. He may skip a few days of practice, and then he would come out on the ice and would show a perfect performance.
OC – Michelle, you are a champion of getting marks of 6 at the official competitions. Do you regret the changes in the judging system in skating?
MK- Of course I liked the old system more. There were more emotions. When people looked at the marks they were going – Wow, Wow, Oooh… Now the people look at the marks and just ask – How much?
OC – What direction do you think figure skating will be going in the next few years?
MK- Everything changes so fast that I can not imagine myself which way figure skating will go in the next few years. I do not think that it will go only toward technical achievements and the women will all be jumping quads. The harmony between the technical and artistic components of the programs will still exist.
Michelle Kwan was born July 7, 1980
Started figure skating when she was 5 years old.
Five time world champion
Silver medalist of the Nagano Olympics in 1998 and Bronze medalist of the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002
Nine time champion of the USA
Record keeper for the number of marks 6 in the world - 57.
In 2000 she made People Magazine's list of the 50 most beautiful people in the world.