When I learned this, I of course wanted to watch right away, but then I thought, "Wait a second; what if she's one who also takes Plushenko's side? Then my two figure skating heroes will be against one another and I'll have to choose one!" I didn't think it very likely that Kwan would side with Plushenko, not with what she has been through in her skating career, but I didn't think I could bear it if she did and I almost decided not to look.
But I shouldn't have worried. She is proud of Evan Lysacek, as I am and as as we all should be. She interviewed him after he won the gold, and it's such a thrill to see my old figure skating hero and my new figure skating hero sitting down and chatting together as friends and equals. It's also so good to see Michelle Kwan branching out and continuing to grow as a human being and to achieve success outside the realm of athletics, but able to still be a part of the athletic realm, albeit in a different capacity. You go, girl!
I've mentioned before that Michelle Kwan is my favorite female figure skater; she's really the reason why I started following figure skating in the first place, and why I came to love it. I first heard of her in the advent of the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, she was mentioned every once in a while as a footnote to the whole Harding/Kerrigan fiasco; every once in a while they would mention that if either Harding or Kerrigan were unable to compete, for whatever reason, that 13-year-old Michelle Kwan, silver medalist at the U.S. National Championships, would fill in as the alternate. I was also 13 years old at the time, and I thought that was really cool that someone my age might get to compete in the Olympics, and I really hoped that she would get to do so, because it quickly became obvious that Harding was guilty of conduct unbecoming an Olympian and had no business competing.
For some inexplicable reason Harding was allowed to compete (and I hope whoever were in charge of that decision are still kicking themselves about it to this day), so Kwan's Olympic debut wasn't to be in 1994, but I continued to follow her skating career. I won't go into the whole story now, but the main thing I have learned from Michelle Kwan is that you can't count on luck to get ahead; you have to be willing to work hard and persevere. Because she never, ever in her figure skating career, and certainly never in the Olympics, caught a lucky break. Even lacking Olympic gold she is the most decorated U.S. figure skater in history, but she had to work and fight (fight circumstances that is, not people) for every single title, and she can be proud of every single one because she earned them entirely by the sweat of her own brow.
But she never won Olympic gold; I don't know how she feels about it, but it still stings me. After the 2006 Olympics, after I moved here and stopped subscribing to cable, I got out of the habit of watching TV, so I stopped following figure skating as closely as I used to. But the TV was only one reason; it was hard for me to get excited about it after Kwan stopped competing. I just didn't want to think about watching a competition when she wasn't going to be there, and the thought of investing emotionally in someone else just wasn't very appealing.
I'm kind of kicking myself now, though, because I missed out on four years that I could have been watching Evan Lysacek. There have been many male figure skaters that I've respected and admired, and I've had a few favorites on the men's side, notably Michael Weiss and Todd Eldredge (although I always felt conflicted about the latter because he was a good friend of Tara Lipinski's). But I'd never loved a male figure skater the way that I loved Michelle Kwan until Evan Lysacek's short program two weeks ago. He had my heart from that moment on.
And Evan Lysacek has achieved Olympic gold, the one accomplishment that Michelle Kwan never quite managed despite all her hard work, the crown jewel missing from her collection. So that's why I like seeing them come together in conversation and seeing Michelle Kwan bask in the reflected glory. Kim Yu-Na is remarkable and Plushenko (in spite of everything) is formidable, but in my heart Lysacek and Kwan will always be the king and queen of the ice.