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The Inside Edge: The Kween and her court

Michelle Kwan gets inducted into Hall of Fame in wonderful ceremony

After nine national titles and two Olympic medals, Michelle Kwan deserves to smile.
After nine national titles and two Olympic medals, Michelle Kwan deserves to smile. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(01/28/2012) - A murmur of audible excitement approaching the media room on Friday afternoon heralded the arrival of the Kween herself, Michelle Kwan. She looked beautiful and greeted many of the assembled journalists as old friends. A change of outfit later into a regal royal blue blouse and she was giving a press conference, reminiscing about her storied career to a steady whir of camera shutters.

"It was never about medals for me; it was about loving what you do," she said.

Kwan talked about winning her first U.S. title in San Jose in 1996 and said that walking down the halls at the arena brought back a lot of memories. She got a big laugh when she said that she saw her coach Frank Carroll coming off the ice from practice as she went by.

"It's been a long time since I've come to a national championships," she said. "When I packed, I thought 'What am I missing? I'm feeling nervous, too. What's going on?' Well, I'm going to a nationals, of course I'm going to have the jitters; what's missing is my skates!"

Kwan's performance to Lyra Angelica is one of the favorite moments for many fans, and it turns out it's one of Kwan's favorite moments too.

"My fondest memory, which was also the hardest competition, was in '98 when I was struggling with the stress fracture. I really had two options: to quit and say 'better luck next time in four years' or to try my best, and that's what I did."

Kwan said that when she stepped out on the ice, her Lyra Angelica program set her free. "It took me to a place ... it was something I had never experienced before. I think it was at that nationals that I realized that's what I have to remember ... [to] remind myself to just have fun and love what I do."

Party

Seconds after the men's short program ended, we hurled ourselves onto buses, scampered back to the hotel, changed into our party clothes and made our way, mere moments later, to the Hall of Fame reception at the Fairmont Hotel.

The modest-sized room was already busy and would soon be full-to-bursting with about 300 skating officials, Hall of Famers and a sizable contingent of Michelle Kwan fans. Excellent food (including Kwan's favorite, sushi) was served and good beverages were flowing. Celebrities in the crowd included Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Kristi Yamaguchi, Sarah Hughes, Peggy Fleming, Paul Wylie, Johnny Weir, Todd Eldredge, Judy Blumberg, Emily Hughes, Tom Collins, Richard Dwyer, coaches Frank Carroll, Linda Leaver and Kathy Casey, and of course the Kwan family: parents Danny and Estelle, sister Karen, brother Ron and brother-in-law Peter Oppegard.

After an hour of eating and talking, the ceremony got underway with Hall of Fame committee chairman Dr. Larry Mondschein going over the lengthy list of Kwan's accomplishments. U.S. Figure Skating President Patricia St. Peter also spoke about what Kwan has meant to figure skating. A delightful collection of video clips was shown, with highlights from Kwan's competitions and many TV appearances, as well as commercials she starred in and mentions in TV shows and movies.

Brian Boitano spoke with fondness and emotion of touring with Kwan for many years. He said that she seemed so young and vulnerable in the beginning that he took her under his wing. He soon discovered that the young teenager had great aspirations, though.

"I remember one time I was sitting with Michelle backstage and she told me, 'Someday I want to be President of the United States," Boitano said, to delighted laughter from the crowd.

At the end of his speech, Boitano choked up as he said he was thankful to have been even a small part of Kwan's journey.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited to present the award to Kwan, but she was unable to attend. She graciously filmed a warm tribute video to Kwan, however, which was shown to the gathering.

At last, Mondschein and St. Peter made the formal presentation of a silver bowl and a medal, and The Kween was where she has always belonged, in the Hall of Fame. She took to the podium and gave a moving speech, in which she thanked everyone who had been a part of her career, starting with her family and moving on to U.S. Figure Skating, officials, judges, media, the skaters who came before and after her, and lastly and most importantly, the fans. She mentioned the Michelle Kwan Forum, and the members of that group -- who were present in force -- gave a ringing cheer.

We saw the Boys Who Score in a daze of happiness for their idol. Billy confirmed that yes, he cried, but no, he didn't faint.

The final event was the gathering of all the members of the Hall of Fame who were present, for a photo. Kwan greeted each of them with a hug and a smile as they filed onstage.

Olympic champions spotted: 7, with the addition of Yamaguchi and Sarah Hughes.

Michelle Kwan sightings: 3. (Our official rules consider each new Michelle outfit as a new sighting.)

We're off to watch the ladies final!

Sarah and Drew
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