Q&A with Michelle Kwan

December 21, 2012

Mary Jordan: What have you learned from sports?

Michelle Kwan: There are so many lessons learned from sports, things that I apply to my life on a daily basis - even when I transitioned out of sports - hard work, dedication, discipline. Facing challenges head on and not being afraid. And I think those are things that I’ll always apply to my life.

Mary Jordan: Can you talk about the discipline and the hours that you spent [while training for the Olympics]? What was a typical day like? What was your school like? And then I want to talk about how that has changed you.

Michelle Kwan: I look back on my time on the ice and the way I was training, [and] I was invincible in some ways. I didn’t enjoy taking the day off because I felt like I was losing time. My competitors in China, in Russia were training on a daily basis. So I was like a robot in everything that I was doing, the hours that I was putting in. I trained all day - I was at the rink [from] 9:00 [until] 6:00, 6:30. And then after I finished skating I would go to the gym.

Mary Jordan: Where do you get that kind of drive?

Michelle Kwan: Well, we were talking about the role of parents. I didn’t have tiger parents. They were there to support me and be there in times when I needed a push, I needed a motivation, but I have to say it’s all within. When you have a passion, when you have a vision, it’s like you don’t see anything else. And that’s what drives you every day.

Mary Jordan: When a million people are watching you on the ice and you fall, how do you get up mentally?

Michelle Kwan: It’s one of the things; you know that thousands of people are watching and the audience, and it is hard. But you have to pick yourself back up as if it didn’t happen and just to move on. And I think these are the lessons that I learned because throughout life, it’s not going to be smooth sailing.

Mary Jordan: You train yourself to just keep going, right?

Michelle Kwan: Yeah, you plow through it and you pick yourself back up.

Mary Jordan: What was the hardest thing about being in the Olympics, being a champion, and what other advice do you have for people that want to be number one in the world at what they do?

Michelle Kwan: When people say I want to be the best, I think having that vision is a good thing, but I think it’s about improving oneself.

Because you own the ice for four minutes. You have the attention of nine judges looking at you, make the best of it. You’re not competing against anyone else. These are your four minutes; you own it.

Mary Jordan: What was the hardest part about being in the Olympics? Is it the pressure? Is it the mind part, not the physical part?

Michelle Kwan: I think it’s preparing four years for this one moment and saying, I ate well; I slept; I didn’t go out to parties, and just saying, this is my four minutes. This is my two minutes for a short program, four minutes in my long program. And that’s nerve-wracking. It’s like everything lies on those four minutes.

Mary Jordan: Can I ask you, where are your Olympic medals? I’m just kind of curious.

Michelle Kwan: When I was really, really young, I thought, oh, I would sleep with my medals on. But they’re in the ice rink that my family and I built in Los Angeles and it’s all on display for everybody. If someone walked into my house, you wouldn’t see any skating memorabilia or medals because they’re only medals. When I look back at all the skating competitions and the Olympics and everything, I don’t look back at the medals that I had received. It’s more the moments that I experienced.

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