Michelle Kwan Takes the Village

  • Share
  • Read Later

Kwan hits the ice in Salt Lake City

They say it's lonely at the top, but U.S. figure skater and gold medal contender Michelle Kwan never knew it would be this lonely. At 10:20 Saturday morning, just 12 hours after marching in the Opening Ceremonies, Kwan was the only skater on the rink at her first official Olympic practice session in Salt Lake City. This being Utah, and these being figure skaters, the empty rink had less to do with Opening Ceremony hangovers and more to do with competitive strategizing — the remaining ladies in her group, Americans Sarah Hughes and Sasha Cohen, have decamped for more private training facilities (Hughes in Colorado Springs, Cohen back home in Orange County, California), and the Japanese ladies have yet to arrive. So it was just Kwan and her father, Danny, who has been sitting in as her coach since she fired Frank Carroll last November. She's likely to have the ice all to herself for the next week, as her teammates and the Japanese are not expected back until the second week of the Games.

And that's fine by Kwan, who is taking a decidedly different tack at this Games. The last time around, in Nagano, she skipped Opening Ceremonies and shunned the Olympic Village in favor of a private hotel. That wouldn't have been a big deal, but Tara Lipinski, who would trump her for the gold, did the exact opposite — marching in Opening ceremonies, living in the athlete dorms, taking in every bit of the Olympic experience. And it worked for Lipinski. All of this may or may not have played in Kwan's mind on Thursday when she decided to stay in Salt Lake City for what may be two of the most important weeks of her life, but after viewing the rink facilities at the University of Utah and the Salt Lake Ice Center, she knew she wasn't going home. "It's a wonderful experience to walk around the Village, I like the rink facilities, and the people are so nice I thought I'd stay," she says.

The one downside of staying in Salt Lake is that Kwan will be dogged by the one question she doesn't want to answer — "So, are you going to win the gold?" Lance Armstrong, one of the torch relay bearers in the Opening Ceremony stadium, has already asked. Kwan's only answer — "No comment."