Michelle Kwan has won two Olympic medals, five world championships and nine national crowns during her illustrious career. Kwan, on the other hand, is more than one of the best skaters of all time. She is also passionate about skating history.
She used to watch VHS videos of the greatest moments in figure skating history with her sister Karen and the other skaters at the Ice Castle International Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, California when they were younger. “I gorged on these tapes, watching them over and over again,” she explained.
Kwan picked out some of the programs and situations that inspired her to become a skater when USA TODAY Sports asked her to name her five favorite Olympic skating performances.
The 1988 Olympics were important to me, and not just because of the men’s competition. Later in these Games, there was the women’s long program and the competition between Katarina from East Germany and Debi from the United States. Debi was someone we wanted to encourage, a woman of color, a very athletic woman who was juggling her skating and her studies at Stanford. I was in awe of that. Katarina had won the Olympic gold medal in 1984 and was back to try to win another.
Katarina won gold, and what I will always remember is how she finished her program, “dying” at the end. No one has ever died so gracefully on the ice as her. My sister Karen and I recorded the show and played it over and over, imitating Katarina’s death scene. After the 1988 Olympics, it was “Sign Me Up For It” – I couldn’t get enough of figure skating.
Both women skated to “Carmen” for their long programs. Katarina captivated the judges as always but left the door open for Debi, but Debi unfortunately made a few mistakes and finished third, taking bronze, while Canadian Liz Manley snuck in to take silver at residence.
It was another one of the magical programs that came to life on those VHS tapes of my childhood. Before the 1976 Olympics, there was a clip from the 1974 World Championships in Munich, where the crowd booed the judges’ scores for a West German skater just before Dorothy was due to come skate. I think Dorothy thought the crowd was booing her, which was understandable, and it got to her until she pulled herself together, skated well and won the silver medal. I was so impressed with how she handled this pressure.
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