Michelle Kwan, in my eyes, is a rock star! She's my absolute favorite and now you all know! I was in the arena in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Portland when she won four of her nine U.S. National Titles. I was in the arena in Minneapolis, Vancouver, and Washington D.C. when she won three of her five World Titles. I literally cried when she gave that press conference in Torino announcing her withdrawal from the 2006 Olympics; not only because I was saddened to not see her compete, but also because I was so proud of her and I truly recognized it was the right thing to do (I'm sure Emily Hughes agrees!). I feel like I've 'grown up' with Michelle Kwan, and from the very first time I saw her on ice (1993) she's been my 'ice icon.'
So while I reported with tempered emotions that she had decided not to compete this season, secretly my heart broke. Had she decided to compete this season, my expectation for her was not to win Olympic Gold, truly I believe that was almost an impossible task given the evolution of the sport and the current crop of talent dazzling us these days, but to soak up the adoration of her fans who just love seeing her out there one last time in competition mode. I suspect, the only way Michelle Kwan would have been willing to compete this season is if she really believed she had an opportunity to win. She might of came to the same conclusion I did and thought to herself, 'Better one of these American girls who really has what it takes go after the likes of Asada, Kim, Rochette and company.' Her decision not to compete proves the fact that she is such a champion without even stepping on the ice.
I suppose, that she truly has had 'her time.' Despite the fact that she never won Olympic Gold, I suspect she really has nothing to prove. I don't think anyone informed on the sport thinks her any less great because of that omission. Nine National Titles, five World Titles, two Olympic Medals, and every other championship you can think of kind of speaks for itself. Just about all of my Kwan memories are great ones, and the very few that aren't simply reminded me she is human and can't always be perfect (but she was perfect more than any other skater I can think of).
So, despite saddened by her recent decision to not compete this season, I was thrilled to see her performances at Ice All Stars 2009 (see two of her performances below). She looked amazing, skated amazing, and was amazingly respected by the South Korean crowd. Seeing her perform reminded me of everything good about Michelle Kwan and seeing her in this atmosphere reminded me she hasn't gone anywhere, I can continue to enjoy her. I certainly hope she decides to keep performing because I'll keep watching.
A toast to Michelle Kwan...may my favorite skater always do what she loves, and may we always love her for doing it.
Don't forget I'm compiling a list of the Greatest 1000 Moments on Ice. Be sure to let me know what should go on that list!