The Kwan thread where some posters mentioned had she won the 98 Olympics she probably would have retired (I am not at all sure of that myself, but it seems the general consensus of most) got me thinking, as I actually think the U.S women might have seen a major collapse if that happened. Some would say in that case Michelle would have been the one to retire, and Tara would have been the one to go on many more years. I dont see that at all. People at the time said Tara just took her gold medal and ran, but it turns out her hips were already badly damaged, likely from practicing all those excessive number of triple loops and triple loop combos at such a young age. I dont see anyway she would have lasted as an amateur more than another year or two and she would have already been a dimished force at that. My guess for her would be if she won silver in Nagano, is she would have gone to the 98 Worlds and won gold or silver. She would have already lost her triple-triples in 99 but won silver at Nationals behind Kwan and silver at Worlds behind Butyrskaya. After that she would have seen a sharper drop off, unable to even do all her standard triples anymore, and probably gone pro. She might have even still gone pro right after the 98 season given her phsyical state which little was known about at the time, and which she didnt really open up to people about at the time, hence the unfair labelling she was taking her medal and running from the sport at 15, when as it turns out there was alot more to it than people knew.
Hypothetically if both Kwan and Lipinski were gone though by the middle of the quad the Russian women probably would have been quite dominant, and not just Slutskaya and Butyrskaya, but people like Volchkova and Sokolova would have been more heavily politiked for. I am not sure if someone like Hughes would rise to the top at all without some like Kwan to chase, and with the U.S women slipping off the podium at some point. I dont see Hughes coming up and passing people like Butyrskaya and Volchkova as easily as she did at the 2001 Worlds (especialy as both skated very well there) if the Russian women were in control already at that point, and the U.S no longer has a strong presence like Kwan or Lipinski leading the way. Lets face it, Hughes at the best of times was a very flawed skater, and without the U.S in the forefront anymore to begin with, it would be quite easy to have kept her down in the mid pack. Cohen wouldnt become a real force until the 2002-2003 season as it was, but if the U.S women went through a period they were struggling to even keep 3 spots like now, I am not even sure what would have become of her.
Would the U.S demise in womens skating we saw from 2007-2012 have happened even faster if Kwan had won the Nagano Olympic Gold and if (which form your own opinion about) she had gone pro or retired with it.