This profile thread takes a look back at Michelle Kwan's competitive career (1991-2005)
Born, 7th July 1980, in Torrance, California, Michelle started skating when she was 5 years old (inspired by her older sister, Karen Kwan, who was also a figure skater). Her family struggled to finance Michelle's skating, but they were offered financial assistance by a member of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, which enabled Michelle to train at the Ice Castle International Training Centre.
In 1991, Frank Carroll became Michelle's coach.
During the 1991/92 season (LP: Concerto in F - George Gershwin), Kwan competed at U.S. Nationals for the first time as a junior, where she finished 9th.
U.S. Nationals (Junior) 1992 - SP, U.S. Nationals (Junior) 1992 - FS
Kwan passed her Gold Test and moved up to seniors for the 1992/93 season (LP: Miss Saigon - Claude-Michel Schönberg). Her coach, Frank Carroll, had wanted her to remain in Juniors.
Michelle finished 6th in her first senior U.S. Nationals, where she was the youngest (age 12) to compete as a senior since 1973.
Practice, U.S. Nationals 1993 -SP, U.S. Nationals 1993 - FS, Profile
Kwan finished the season by winning a junior level competition, the Gardena Spring Trophy (beating Jenna Pittman)
Michelle began the 1993/94 season (SP: Song of India - Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, LP: East of Eden - Lee Holdridge) by competing at the U.S. Olympic Festival, where she won the Gold Medal.
U.S. Olympic Festival 1993 - SP, U.S. Olympic Festival 1993 - FS
Kwan's next competition was Skate America, where she finished 7th (winner: Oksana Baiul).
Skate America 1993 - FS
Michelle followed this up by winning the 1994 World Junior Championships (which took place in December 1993), beating Krisztina Czakó and Irina Slutskaya
World Junior Championships 1994 - FS
Kwan then finished 2nd behind Tonya Harding at the 1994 U.S. Nationals, one of the most controversial championships in figure skating history, which involved the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan. Ordinarily, as Kwan had finished 2nd at the Championships, this would have qualified her for a place on the U.S. team for the 1994 Olympics. However, as Kerrigan had been unable to compete, and would have been favourite along with Harding to win had she been able to, Kerrigan was ultimately selected in place of Kwan. Michelle then went to the Olympics as an alternate, but did not ultimately compete.
1994 U.S. Nationals - SP, 1994 U.S. Nationals - FS
With the retirement of both Kerrigan and Harding following the Olympics, Michelle was selected to compete at the 1994 senior World Championships, where she finished 8th (winner: Yuka Sato). She was in 11th after falling on the 3Z of her 3Z+2T combination in the SP. However, a better FS moved her up to 8th overall.
1994 World Championships - SP, 1994 World Championships - FS + Profile
Michelle began the 1994/95 season (SP: Yellow River Piano Concerto - Xian Xinghai, LP: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso - Camille Saint-Saëns) by performing an exhibition program at the U.S. Olympic Festival at the beginning of July 1994.
U.S. Olympic Festival - Exhibition
Later in July 1994, Kwan competed at the Goodwill Games, where she finished 2nd to Surya Bonaly.
1994 Goodwill Games - SP, 1994 Goodwill Games - FS
Next, Kwan competed at Skate America where she again finished 2nd to Surya Bonaly.
1994 Skate America - FS
Michelle then competed at the Trophée de France (now known as the Trophée Eric Bompard), where she finished 3rd (winner: Surya Bonaly, second: Tonia Kwiatkowski).
1994 Trophée de France - FS
At the beginning of 1995, Michelle finished 2nd for the second year running at U.S. Nationals (winner: Nicole Bobek). This loss was caused primarily by a poor landing on the 3Z part of her 3Z+2T combination in her SP, which left her 3rd after the SP.
1995 U.S. Nationals - SP, 1995 U.S. Nationals - FS
Nevertheless, her 2nd placed finish at Nationals qualified Kwan to compete at the World Championships, where she finished just outside the medals in 4th place (winner: Chen Lu).
1995 World Championships - SP, 1995 World Championships - FS
Kwan began the 1995/96 season (SP: Romanza, LP: Salome) by winning Skate America where she beat World Champion, Chen Lu, into 2nd place. This performance highlighted that Kwan had moved up several levels, displaying greater artistry and maturity in her skating, more complex choreography, and greater speed and jumping ability.
1995 Skate America - FS, 1995 Skate America - Exhibition
Next, Michelle competed at Skate Canada, which she also won.
1995 Skate Canada - SP, 1995 Skate Canada - FS
Michelle then won the Nations Cup, beating Maria Butyrskaya and Nicole Bobek
1995 Nations Cup - FS, 1995 Nations Cup - Exhibition
Next, Michelle won her first U.S. Nationals title (second: Tonia Kwiatkowski, third: Tara Lipinski)
1996 U.S. Nationals - SP, 1996 U.S. Nationals - FS, Profile
Michelle's Champions Series victories qualified her for the Final (this was the first ever Champions Series, a series which later became known as the Grand Prix), which took place in February 1996, and which she also won (beating Irina Slutskaya into 2nd, with Chen Lu 4th). Kwan had been in 4th place after the SP after falling on a 3T. However, a strong FS (in conjunction with a disastrous LP by Chen Lu, who had been in 1st place after the SP) moved her up into 1st place overall.
1996 Champions Series Final - SP, 1996 Champions Series Final - FS
Following on from this win, Kwan next won her first World title, beating Chen Lu into 2nd in a very close finish. Michelle won both the SP and LP
1996 World Championships - SP, 1996 World Championships - FS, 1996 World Championships - Exhibition
Kwan first started performing the Change-of-Edge spiral, which would become her signature move, during the 1996/97 season (SP: Dream of Desdemona, LP: Taj Mahal). However, a growth spurt and boot problems, led to a dip in form and jumping problems.
Michelle started the season by competing at Skate America, which she won (beating the skater who was about to become her nemesis, Tara Lipinski)
1996 Skate America - SP, 1996 Skate America - FS
Next, Kwan competed at Trophée Lalique, which she also won (second: Maria Butyrskaya, third: Tara Lipinski)
1996 Trophée Lalique - SP, 1996 Trophée Lalique - FS, 1996 Trophée Lalique - Exhibition
At the 1997 U.S. Nationals, however, Kwan was beaten into 2nd place by Tara Lipinski. Michelle was in first place after the SP, but 2 falls (the first on the 2nd part of an intended 3T+3T combination, and the 2nd on a 3R) and a stumble out of a 3F in her LP, dropped her to 2nd place overall (she finished 3rd in the FS)
1997 U.S. Nationals - SP, 1997 U.S. Nationals - FS
Tara Lipinski again beat Michelle into 2nd place in the Champions Series final, with Michelle making mistakes in both programs.
1997 Champions Series Final - SP, 1997 Champions Series Final
Lipinski made it a hat-trick of wins over Kwan at the World Championships, with Michelle again finishing 2nd to her. Kwan was in 4th place after the SP after stepping out of the first part of her 3Z+2T combination. However, she won the FS with a strong LP, but that was only enough to move her up to 2nd place overall.
1997 World Championships - SP, 1997 World Championships - FS, Profile
Putting her growth spurt problems behind her, Kwan started the 1997/98 season (SP: Piano Concerto No. 3/Piano Trio No. 2 - Sergei Rachmaninoff, LP: Lyra Angelica - William Alwyn) confidently, by winning Skate America (beating Lipinski into second place).
1997 Skate America - SP, 1997 Skate America - FS
Michelle followed this up by winning Skate Canada (second: Maria Butyrskaya)
1997 Skate Canada - SP, 1997 Skate Canada - FS
However, shortly afterwards, Michelle sustained a stress fracture to her left foot, which forced her to withdraw from the Champions Series Final (which Lipinski went on to win).
Michelle had recovered sufficiently from the stress fracture by the beginning of 1998 to compete in and win U.S. Nationals (although she was still having problems with her toe, and was not 100%), where she beat Lipinski into 2nd place. Michelle's performance in her Lyra Angelica FS, in my view, was her greatest ever performance, which earned her eight 6.0's for presentation and left 1 judge in tears. Her Rachmaninoff SP was almost as good.
1998 U.S. Nationals - SP, 1998 U.S. Nationals - FS (with commentary), 1998 U.S. Nationals - FS (without commentary)
Next was the 1998 Olympics. Kwan led after an excellent SP (with 8 out of 9 Judges placing her first), with Lipinski 2nd. However, Lipinski would go on to win both the FS and the Olympic title, despite Michelle performing a clean 7-triple jump program which left her in 2nd place in the FS and overall. The greater technical difficulty which Lipinski injected into her own clean 7-triple jump LP (which included a 3R+3R combination, and a 3T+half R+ 3S sequence) won her title. Who should have won? This remains the subject of debate. Some prefer the greater artistry of Kwan, whilst others prefer what they consider to be the greater technical ability of Lipinski.
1998 Olympics - SP, 1998 Olympics - FS, 1998 Olympics - Exhibition, Profile - Part 1, Profile - Part 2
With Lipinski retiring after the Olympics, Kwan decided to continue for another quad with a view to winning Gold at the 2002 Olympics. She next won the world title for a second time (second: Irina Slutskaya)
1998 World Championships - SP, 1998 World Championships - FS, 1998 World Championships - Exhibition
Kwan finished the season by winning the Goodwill Games
1998 Goodwill Games - SP, 1998 Goodwill Games - FS
Kwan skipped the Grand Prix Series in order to compete in some made for TV Pro-Am events. Hence, her first event of the 1998/99 season (SP: Fate of Carmen, LP: Lamento D'Ariane) was U.S. Nationals, which she won (second: Naomi Nari Nam)
1999 U.S. Nationals - SP, 1999 U.S. Nationals - FS
Nevertheless, a truncated season meant that Kwan was well below her best and she went on to finish 2nd behind Maria Butyrskaya at the World Championships
1999 World Championships - Qualifying Round, 1999 World Championships - SP, 1999 World Championships - FS
Kwan began the 1999/00 season (SP: A Day In The Life, LP: The Red Violin) by winning Skate America (second: Julia Soldatova, fourth: Sarah Hughes))
1999 Skate America - SP, 1999 Skate America - FS, 1999 Skate America - Exhibition
Next, Michelle won Skate Canada (second: Julia Soldatova)
1999 Skate Canada - SP, 1999 Skate Canada - FS
However, Michelle went on to place second to Irina Slutskaya in the Grand Prix final
2000 GPF - SP, 2000 GPF - 1st LP, 2000 GPF - 2nd LP
Kwan retained her U.S. Nationals title (second: Sasha Cohen, third: Sarah Hughes). Michelle was 3rd after the short program after falling on a 3T. However, a better LP mean't that she won the FS and the title.
2000 U.S. Nationals - SP, 2000 U.S. Nationals - FS
Kwan next won her 3rd World title, beating Irina Slutskaya into 2nd, and avenging her defeat to Slutskaya in the GPF. Kwan was in 3rd place after the SP after a poor landing on her 3F. However, she landed 7 triples (which included a 3T+3T combination) in her LP to win both the FS and the title.
2000 World Championships - SP, 2000 World Championships - FS
Kwan began the 2000/01 season (SP: East of Eden, LP: Song of the Black Swan) by winning Skate America (second: Sarah Hughes)
2000 Skate America - SP, 2000 Skate America - FS
However, Michelle was next beaten into 2nd by Irina Slutskaya at Skate Canada
2000 Skate Canada - SP, 2000 Skate Canada - FS
Kwan next retained her U.S. Nationals title (second: Sarah Hughes)
2001 U.S. Nationals - SP, 2001 U.S. Nationals - LP
However, Michelle would again lose the GPF to Irina Slutskaya
2001 GPF - 2nd LP, 2001 GPF - Exhibition
Nevertheless, Michelle would again avenge a GPF defeat to Slutskaya by retaining her World title (second: Slutskaya). Kwan was in second behind Slutskaya after the SP. However, she won the FS to take the title after landing 7 triples (which included a 3T+3T combination) in her LP
2001 World Championships - QR, 2001 World Championships - SP, 2001 World Championships - FS
Michelle began the 2001/02 season (SP: Piano Concerto No. 3/Piano Trio No. 2 - Sergei Rachmaninoff, LP: Scheherazade) by finishing 2nd to Irina Slutskaya at the Goodwill Games
2001 Goodwill Games - SP, 2001 Goodwill Games - FS
Next, Kwan won Skate America (second: Sarah Hughes). However, a couple of days before the start of the competition, Kwan and Frank Carroll ended their coaching relationship. She stated that she needed to "take responsibility" for her skating. She spent the rest of the season without a coach.
2001 Skate America - SP, 2001 Skate America - FS, Profile
Kwan next finished 3rd at Skate Canada (first: Sarah Hughes, second: Irina Slutskaya)
2001 Skate Canada - SP, 2001 Skate Canada - FS
For the 3rd year in a row, Michelle was beaten into 2nd place by Irina Slutskaya in the GPF
2002 GPF - SP, 2002 GPF - 1st FS, 2002 GPF - 2nd FS
Next, Michelle retained her U.S. Nationals title (second: Sasha Cohen, third: Sarah Hughes)
2002 U.S. Nationals - SP, 2002 U.S. Nationals - FS, Profile
At the 2002 Olympics, Michelle led after the SP. However, in a disastrous FS, she had a two footed landing on the first part of her intended 3T+3T combination, and doubled out on the second part. She then fell on her 3F. Sarah Hughes, performing the FS of her life, skated a clean 7 triple jump program (which included a 3S+3R combination and a 3T+3R combination) to come through and win the Olympic title. Slutskaya took the silver, with Kwan winning the bronze.
2002 Olympics - SP, 2002 Olympics - FS, 2002 Olympics - Exhibition, 2002 Olympics - Medal Ceremony
Kwan was then beaten into 2nd place by Irina Slutskaya at the World Championships
2002 World Championships - QR, 2002 World Championships - SP, 2002 World Championships - FS
Kwan began working with coach, Scott Williams, in the summer of 2002.
Michelle began the 2002/03 season (SP: The Feeling Begins, LP: Concierto de Aranjuez) by winning Skate America
2002 Skate America - SP, 2002 Skate America - FS
Kwan decided not to compete in the remainder of the Grand Prix series.
Next, Kwan retained her U.S. Nationals title, beating Olympic Champion, Sarah Hughes into 2nd place (third: Sasha Cohen)
2003 U.S. Nationals - SP, 2003 U.S. Nationals - FS
Kwan would next win her 5th World title (second: Elena Sokolova)
2003 World Championships - SP, 2003 World Championships - FS, 2003 World Championships - Exhibition
For the 2003/04 season (SP: The Feeling Begins, LP: Tosca), Kwan appointed Rafael Arutyunyan as her coach, but skipped the Grand Prix series. She began her season by retaining her U.S. Nationals title (second: Sasha Cohen)
2004 U.S. Nationals - SP, 2004 U.S. Nationals - FS
Nevertheless, Kwan could only finish 3rd at the World Championships (first: Shizuka Arakawa, second: Sasha Cohen). She was penalized in the SP for going 2 seconds over time, which left her 4th going into the LP. She then landed 5 triples in her FS to finish 2nd in the LP and 3rd overall.
2004 World Championships - SP, 2004 World Championships - FS, 2004 World Championships - Exhibition
For the 2004/05 season (SP: Adagio from Spartacus, LP: Boléro), Kwan again skipped the Grand Prix series and began her season by retaining her U.S. Nationals title (second: Sasha Cohen). In winning Nationals again, she won the title for a record equaling ninth time (which tied the record with Maribel Vinson-Owen)
2005 U.S. Nationals - SP, 2005 U.S. Nationals - FS, Profile
Nevertheless, Michelle could only finish 4th at the World Championships (winner: Irina Slutskaya), the first time she had finished off the podium at worlds since 1995. In her FS, she fell on a 3S and two-footed the landing on a 3Z. Kwan was competing for the first time under the new judging system, and experienced difficulties in adjusting to it
2005 World Championships - QR, 2005 World Championships - SP, 2005 World Championships - FS
Kwan had planned to continue skating into the 2005/06 season in order to take part in the 2006 Olympics. However, various injuries mean't that she was unable to compete.
Biography Channel Documentary
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5