My first reaction to learning that Michelle Kwan will not be competing in next year’s Vancouver Olympics was one of relief. In a sport where young teenagers are the new stars, I feel nothing but admiration for the 29-year-old Kwan, who will be pursuing graduate studies instead. Sometimes you just have to know when to close one door and move onto the next phase of your life.
After graduating from the University of Denver in June with a bachelor’s in political science, Kwan will be attending Tufts University this fall to obtain a master’s in international affairs.
In an Associated Press interview, Kwan said “skating will always be a part of me. But in the bigger picture of my life, I have always wanted to find a career that will allow me to make a positive contribution and difference in the world.”
Kwan’s area of study isn’t surprising considering her numerous off-rink achievements. She was appointed a public diplomacy envoy for the State Department in 2006 and became a member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in January. Her position entails traveling across the country to bring awareness about athletics, injuries and health.
Kwan said “representing the United States as an American public diplomacy envoy the past three years has been very rewarding, and I want to do more. Furthering my education will bring me closer to that goal, and I don’t want to wait any longer to continue the journey.”
She once faced considerable delays to her education due to skating demands, but has not competed professionally since her memorable withdrawal from the 2006 Turin Olympics due to an injury that later required hip surgery. Regrettably, to the masses she may be known for having never won the Olympic gold medal — but even without the coveted medal, her achievements far surpass that of any other skater. With nine U.S. Championship gold medals, (eight of them won consecutively from 1998 to 2005), silver and bronze Olympic medals and five World Championship titles, Kwan is truly one of the best skaters of our time.
It’s been great watching such a successful female Asian American athlete make a positive influence in our generation, and we look forward to seeing her accomplishments in her next endeavor. Good luck Michelle!
Here’s Kwan’s famed “Fields of Gold” exhibition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images