Skip to main content
Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan

Ice Skater, Athlete (1980–)
  • Publish date:
Michelle Kwan is a five-time world champion figure skater and two-time Olympic medalist.


Born July 7, 1980, in Torrance, California, Michelle Kwan finished eighth in the 1994 World Championships at the age of 13, and has since been a five-time World Champion. At her first Olympics in 1998 she lost gold to Tara Lipinski; in 2002 she took bronze. A serious injury forced to withdraw from the 2006 Olympics. Stepping away from the sport, Kwan went to the University of Denver to finish her bachelor's degree. She continued her studies at Tuft University in 2009 where she enrolled in a two-year master's program. Kwan served as TV correspondent for 2010 Winter Olympics.

Early Career

Olympic figure skater Michelle Wingshan Kwan was born on July 7, 1980, in Torrance, California. The daughter of Hong Kong immigrants, Kwan watched her older brother play ice hockey as a youngster. She began skating when she was five, entering and winning her first figure skating competition a year later. She finished eighth in the 1994 World Championships at the age of 13, earning a spot as an alternate for the 1994 Olympic Games.

Olympic Medalist

Not long after her first foray into the Olympics, Kwan began a dominant force in the world of figure skating. She captured the world title in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2003. At the Nagano Olympics in 1998, Kwan was favored to win gold, but ended up with a disappointing silver medal when fellow U.S. skater Tara Lipinski took a surprising first place.

Shortly before the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, Kwan, who was then the reigning world champ, inexplicably fired both her choreographer, Lori Nichol, and longtime coach, Frank Carroll. Once again, the gold medal eluded her when she finished third behind rival Irina Slutskaya of Russia and U.S. skater Sarah Hughes, who took first.

Scroll to Continue


US actor Miles Teller poses during a photocall for the film "Too Old To Die Young - North of Hollywood, West of Hell" at the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 18, 2019.

Miles Teller

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02:  Ranking member U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) questions U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as he testifies at a hearing on receiving 'the Monetary Policy Report to the Congress required under the Humphrey-Hawkins Act' at the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. Bernanke reportedly defended the Federal Reserves monetary policy against criticism from Republicans.  (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

Barney Frank

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 02:  Actor  Ben Whishaw attends the 48th New York Film Festival premiere of 'The Tempest' at Alice Tully Hall on October 2, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ben Whishaw

Ben Whishaw

Kwan continued to compete since her defeat in Salt Lake City, winning gold at the U.S. Nationals and bronze at the World Championships in 2004. In February 2006, she was forced to withdraw from the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, due to a severely strained groin.

Life After Olympics

While she didn't officially retire, Kwan decided to focus on her education after the 2006 Olympics. She enrolled at the University of Denver to complete her undergraduate degree. Kwan had previously been a student at University of California, Los Angeles. She also began her diplomatic work around this time. The U.S. State Department named her a public advocacy envoy, which involved traveling to different countries to share her experiences with others.

In 2009, Kwan went to Tufts University for a law and diplomacy master's degree program. She took a break from her studies to serve as a TV correspondent for ABC for the 2010 Winter Olympics. After completing her degree, Kwan continued to pursue a career in diplomacy. She currently works in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Kwan got engaged to Clay Pell, a White House national security expert, in 2012. The following January, the couple wed in Providence, Rhode Island. Many skating stars were among their guests, including Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!