Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kwan's Exit Is as Graceful as Her Skating ; Injury Forces the Two-Time Medal-Winner Home - Probably Dashing Her Last Hopes for an Olympic Gold Medal

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kwan's Exit Is as Graceful as Her Skating ; Injury Forces the Two-Time Medal-Winner Home - Probably Dashing Her Last Hopes for an Olympic Gold Medal

Article excerpt

The day before Michelle Kwan withdrew from the Turin Games and almost surely ended any hope of winning an Olympic gold medal, she was still fighting.

For more than a decade, her career had followed an arc as graceful as any of her trademark passes across the ice - smiling, beautiful, and emphatic: nine-time winner of the national title and five-time world champion.

Yet she sat before the assembled media on Saturday lacking only boxing gloves and a spit cup. The questions were flying: No one had ever seen her more upset than she was at that morning's skate. Yet she would not yield her Olympic dream. She had tweaked a muscle, yes. But she was here to skate, and skate she would.

Then in the predawn hours of Sunday morning, the final diagnosis came in and everything changed. The Olympics have always sounded off- key in Kwan's otherwise symphonic career. By her high standards, a silver and a bronze are medallions of opportunities lost as well as objects of achievement. Yet curiously, by yielding her spot, she may enhance her legacy, not diminish it.

She had, in some ways, qualified for this Olympics by the back door on an injury exemption, pushing out the red-cheeked exuberance of Emily Hughes - no less than the sister of the skater who had won gold in Salt Lake. But just as swimmer Michael Phelps became known as a gentleman as well as an athlete when he yielded his relay spot to a teammate in Athens, this move could be seen as a memorable moment of grace amid an extraordinary skating life.

"Michelle Kwan means more to the United States Olympic Committee than maybe any athlete that ever performed," said Peter Ueberroth, chairman of the USOC.

Officially, her hope of leaving Turin with the gold medal that she has long sought ended after 2 a.m. Sunday morning here, after she was diagnosed with a groin strain that would not allow her to compete. In truth, though, a season of injuries before she ever came to Turin had significantly diminished her chances of beating the top women in the world next week. …

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