Kwan Is Coming Back Around

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 6, 2006

FORT MYERS, Fla. Michelle Kwan picked up a Styrofoam cup from the breakfast table laid out for the figure skaters preparing for an exhibition this weekend and poured herself a half-cup of coffee. Like the last time she did an interview, Kwan wore all black. But today, zippered up in a sweat suit, she settled into a padded chair and made it clear her clothing didn't match her mood.

Unlike during a somber February news conference when she announced she was dropping out of the Olympic figure skating competition, Kwan talked hopefully about skating competitively again and volunteered a story: Her older brother Ron and sister Karen attended the Olympic women's free skate final while Kwan watched at home on television.

Kwan's siblings had ordered tickets long in advance. Ron had been traveling through Europe on a trip that concluded in Italy. Karen had reserved an apartment in the city. They decided to go, even without their little sister on the program. Moments after the free skate had ended, Karen ran out to the concourse and dialed Michelle's number on her cellphone.

Michelle, who had been watching the event at her home in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., with her parents, heard the din of the crowd in the background, the rumble of the announcer's voice.

"You should be here," Karen said.

Kwan, of course, had been there, but she left amid tears, camera flashes, forlorn Olympic officials and some criticism after an agonized, fitful quest to compete. But all of a sudden, it was as if she were back. As fellow American Sasha Cohen absorbed the disappointment of falling out of a first-place finish, Michelle Kwan could hear the muffled, familiar sounds of competition concluding and an emptying arena.

It was, she said, kind of funny.

Except that it really wasn't.

The sisters ended up sobbing. Some 6,000 miles apart, they cried not onto each other's shoulders, but into their phones.

For Kwan, whose hopes of making a third run at a still-elusive Olympic gold medal were dashed by a string of injuries leading up to the Turin Games, watching the women's final punctuated an emotional, tumultuous time from which she only now is emerging. If there is one thing she discovered while taking six weeks off from the ice in an attempt to heal her still beat-up body, it's that the injuries and uproar did not touch her core. The Olympics left her feeling wounded, but she remains tantalized by the possibility of competing again.

Friday's appearance here at Germain Arena with the Champions on Ice tour's first of more than 60 shows marks her first performance -- albeit not in a competition -- since she competed in a made-for-television event in Boston in December.

Wednesday morning, she bumped into Cohen -- whom she hadn't seen since Boston -- in a corridor and exchanged a hug and polite banter. She had previously chatted with Olympic bronze medal winner Irina Slutskaya, 27, and both joked they might see each other at the next Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010.

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