CNNSI.com Winter Olympics 2002 Figure Skating Winter Olympics 2002 Figure Skating


 

'It's a bummer'

Mistakes cost Kwan shot at elusive gold

Posted: Friday February 22, 2002 3:06 AM
  Michelle Kwan Michelle Kwan expected a medal but didn't expect it to be bronze. AP

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Michelle Kwan's bronze medal was buried deep beneath her thick black sweater, even the ribbon obscured by the scarf wrapped around her neck.

When she finally pulled it out, she grimaced as if she was dragging an ugly, ratty old jacket from the back of a closet.

"It's a bummer," she said. "It was one of those things. It didn't go my way."

It never does at the Olympics. Four minutes away from gold again, Kwan made two major mistakes in the free skate Thursday night and dropped all the way to bronze.

And again, a spunky American teen-ager was standing above her on the podium. This time, it was Sarah Hughes.

"I think I was a little more disappointed in Nagano, just because I skated much better," said Kwan, the silver medalist in 1998 when Tara Lipinski won gold.

"I guess it's different. But both ended up crying."

 
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More like sobbing. Kwan knew she was in trouble when she finished her free skate, and she clutched her dad's hand tight as she waited for her marks.

Hughes had already put on the performance of a lifetime, and Irina Slutskaya was still to go. The marks were far from golden, and they weren't even good enough for silver.

She would have to settle for bronze this time.

"I've experienced much the last four years," she said. "I've realized it doesn't matter the color of your medal."

But her puffy, red eyes said differently. She talked as if she had a stuffed-up nose and when someone asked if she had a cold, she smiled sadly.

"No," she said. "I was just crying."

This was supposed to finally be Kwan's time. Since losing to Lipinski in Nagano, she's won three more world championships; she also won in 1996. She now has six U.S. titles, second only to Maribel Vinson, and her five consecutive national crowns trail the six of Vinson and Gretchen Merrill.

And unlike 1998, she took in the whole Olympic experience and it seemed to settle her. She had great practices, and looked looser before she skated than she has in years.

But it wasn't meant to be. At least not this time. She two-footed her triple toe loop jump, the opener of a combination, and crashed to the ice on her triple flip.

Her tricks weren't as tough as Hughes, and she didn't have the 16-year-old's energy, either.

She doesn't have Hughes' bright, golden medal, either. Instead, Kwan had to settle for a plastic gold medal that 1976 Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill gave her.

She gladly whipped the dimestore one out before slowly pulling out the real bronze medal.

"It's not as heavy as this [bronze] one," she said, holding up the toy gold. "But it's just as nice. This is the color medal I would have liked."

Just 21, Kwan still has at least one, if not two more shots at gold. While she won't say definitively, she's indicated the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, will be on her agenda.

"A lot of people ask me what my decision is after the Olympics. I don't know," she said. "I enjoy competing and I do love the sport a lot. It gives me a lot of pleasure, a lot of joy."

The one thing it hasn't given her is Olympic gold. And as the fans filed out of the Salt Lake Ice Center on Thursday night, a sadly appropriate song played over the P.A. system.

"You know I believe it," U2 sang, "but I still haven't found what I'm looking for."


 
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