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Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan

Ice Skater, Athlete (1980–)
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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.

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Representative Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico, speaks during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 29, 2020. The hearing is titled "U.S. Park Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square Park." Photographer: Bonnie Cash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deb Haaland

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 09: John Major attends the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall on November 9, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. People across the UK gather to pay tribute to service personnel who have died in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, with this year taking on added significance as it is the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

John Major

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.

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