Sarah Hughes Biography

Ice Skater, Athlete(1985–)
At age 16, Sarah Hughes won the 2002 Olympic women's figure-skating gold medal as the result of a program that featured two fully executed triple-jump combinations.

Synopsis

Born on May 2, 1985, in Great Neck, New York, Sarah Hughes started skating as a toddler and made it to the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. At 16, she staged a historic upset by winning the women's figure-skating gold medal over favorite Michelle Kwan with a thrilling, long program that featured two fully executed triple-jump combinations. Hughes went on to graduate from Yale University.

Early Life

Figure skater Sarah Elizabeth Hughes was born on May 2, 1985, in Great Neck, New York. One of six children, she surprised the skating world when she won the gold medal in women's figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Hughes started skating around the age of 3, following in the footsteps of her father, John, and older siblings. Her father played hockey, as did her two older brothers, Matt and David. Her older sister, Rebecca, figure skated for a time as well.

Hughes excelled at skating, winning the novice division of the Eastern Sectional competition in 1996. The following year, she faced a personal challenge when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hughes pressed on with her skating, despite her mother's news, winning the national junior championship title in 1998. Her mother's cancer later went into remission.

Olympic Champion

Clearly a skater on the rise, Sarah Hughes made an impressive silver win at the 2001 national championships, finishing behind Michelle Kwan. Hughes won the Skate Canada event that same year. Still, at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, she was not considered to be a potential medalist.

In the figure-skating competition, Hughes was in fourth place at the end of the short program performances. She managed to pull off an impressive, long program, which included landing a record-setting seven triple jumps. Hughes's near flawless routine helped her edge out Russia's Irina Slutskaya and U.S. favorite Michelle Kwan for the gold medal. Hughes was only 16 years at the time of her victory, making her one of her sport's youngest gold medalists. With her surprise win, she became a popular figure in the press. Hughes received the 2002 Sullivan Award, an annual award honoring leading amateur athletes. She even had her own television special, Sarah Hughes: A Life in Balance.

The following competition season, Hughes missed several events due to an injury, and was unable to match the level of performance that brought her gold in Salt Lake City. In the fall of 2003, she began a new chapter of her life as a student at Yale University.

Life After Olympics

After starting at Yale, Hughes launched her professional skating career. She completed her bachelor's degree in American studies in 2009.

Hughes is active with several social causes and sports organizations, including the Women's Sport Foundation. In recent years, she lent her support to the Skate for Hope organization, which holds skating events to raise funds for breast cancer research and awareness. Hughes continues to skate today.

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