OLYMPIC DREAM THWARTED AGAIN: PAINFUL EXIT FOR KWAN INJURY FORCES SKATER TO WITHDRAW FROM OLYMPICS.
TURIN, Italy - Michelle Kwan hid the pain from reporters Sunday morning.
Until she was asked about never winning Olympic gold.
``It's always been a dream, you know, to win the Olympics,'' she said quietly, tears suddenly filling her eyes. ``I learned it's not about the gold, it's the spirit.
``I have no regrets. I tried my hardest, and if didn't win the gold, it's OK. I had a great career. I've been very lucky.''
Kwan, 25, withdrew from the Turin Olympics early Sunday morning after a middle-of-the-night examination by U.S. Olympic Committee medical personnel. It was determined she has ``acute groin strain.'' She was warned that further practice or competition could aggravate an already painful condition.
Kwan decided to give up her place on the Olympic team. She will be replaced in the women's singles competition by Emily Hughes, 17.
``It's one of the toughest decisions I've had to make,'' Kwan said, ``but I know it's the right one.''
Kwan's departure would seem to end an era.
The Torrance native and longtime Lake Arrowhead resident was one of the planet's best and most popular skaters for more than a decade, winning five world championships and nine national championships - but only silver and bronze in the Olympics.
``Michelle Kwan means more to the United States Olympic Committee than maybe any athlete that's ever performed for the United States Olympic Committee,'' said Peter Ueberroth, USOC chief executive officer. ``She's a leader, she's been gracious, she's somebody to cherish forever.
``She's a real loss to the (USOC), to the United States of America and, I think, to the world. She's made a courageous decision.''
Kwan wouldn't say the injury ends her career, but the only championship missing from her resume is the Olympics, and she would be 29 at the Vancouver Games of 2010.
``I can't even think past right now, this moment, and being here,'' she said.
Kwan missed the U.S. Championships last month because of a groin injury, but she and Dr. Jim Moeller said this injury was new, suffered during an abortive practice session on Saturday.
She said she felt stiffness when she got on the ice, but it was while attempting a triple flip that she felt a stab of pain. ``I tried it again and fell,'' she said. ``I tried to skate it off but ended up getting off the ice.''
She ended the session early, but as the day went on, the pain increased despite icing and a session with a trainer.
After dinner with her parents, she returned to the Athletes Village and found she couldn't sleep. A little before 2 a.m., she called for help. Moeller was summoned to examine Kwan in the training room.
``After I got evaluated, I think I had to make the decision to withdraw from the team,'' Kwan said. ``I would love to compete in my third Olympics, but I love and respect the sport, and I think it's all about the United States bringing the best team to the Olympic Games, and I wouldn't want to get in the way of that.''
Kwan came to a Sunday press conference dressed entirely in black. She entered the room with a barely perceptible limp, and she spoke in a tone hardly above a whisper. Her trademark smile was never in evidence.
She said she likely will return to California in the next few days. ``I think the best thing to do is go home and get better,'' she said. ``I don't want to be a distraction here.''
Kwan was added to the team on Jan. 27 after a special monitoring team watched her skate in a closed session at her current home rink, the East West Ice Palace in Artesia. At the time, she bumped Hughes, third at the nationals, off the Olympic team.
Ron Hershberger, president of U.S. Figure Skating, said Kwan was examined again on Feb. 7 and found to be recovered from her injury.
``When I left Los Angeles, I felt ready to compete,'' Kwan said. ``I knew I didn't have a lot of practice under me, but I felt good and ready to go.''
Her departure leaves the Turin Games without one of its best-known and most telegenic stars, and could impact ratings for NBC, which is televising the Winter Games. The women's competition (scheduled here for Feb. 21 and 23) typically attracts the highest TV ratings of the Winter Olympics.
Kwan erupted onto the national scene in 1994 when she finished second in the U.S. Championships, the bizarre event at which associates of Tonya Harding attacked rival Nancy Kerrigan, knocking her out of the competition.
Kwan went to the Lillehammer Games as an alternate, at age 13, but was replaced on the two-person team by Kerrigan, who had recovered from her injuries.
Throughout that period, Kwan practiced at the Ice Castle International Training Center, in Lake Arrowhead, under the tutelage of coach Frank Carroll. She took correspondence classes from Rim of the World High School, and her diploma was issued by that school, though she spent no time on campus.
In 1996, she won the first of her world and national championships, combining athleticism (she later called herself ``a jumping bean'' in her youth) with supreme style and grace and a joie de vivre that suffused her skating.
Kwan was a favorite for gold both at Nagano in 1998 and at Salt Lake City in 2002. In each case, she skated tentatively and was beaten by a younger American skater - Tara Lipinski in 1998 and Sarah Hughes (Emily's older sister) in 2002.
Kwan was world champion as late as 2003, but she missed almost all of 2005 after finishing fourth at the world championships in Moscow, where she first encountered the new scoring system.
Paul Oberjuerge, (909) 386-3865
(1 -- cover -- color) Michelle Kwan announces she will not be participating in the Turin Games during a news conference Sunday.
Stephen Munday/Getty Images
(2) Michelle Kwan fell during training on Saturday, and on Sunday withdrew from the Olympics.
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Associated Press
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Feb 13, 2006|
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