Citing Injury, Kwan Withdraws From Olympics

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  1. Angel

    Angel Well-Known Member

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    Citing Injury, Kwan Withdraws From Olympics
    Five-Time World Champ Loses Last Chance at Olympic Gold Medal
    By NANCY ARMOUR, AP

    TURIN, Italy (Feb. 12) - Michelle Kwan's decade-long quest for Olympic gold came to a sorrowful end Sunday when she withdrew because of an injury, taking the biggest name out of the Turin Games.
    Kwan cut short her first practice of the games the day before after straining a groin muscle, and the injury worsened as the day wore on. She withdrew after Dr. Jim Moeller evaluated her early Sunday morning and recommended she not continue.

    "I wish I was here in better circumstances," Kwan said Sunday morning, her voice flat and her eyes puffy. "When I first put in my petition, I said I believed I'd be 100 percent by time the Olympics came around. But yesterday, after going on ice and feeling stiff ... I don't think that I can be 100 percent.

    "I respect the Olympics too much to compete and I don't feel I can be at my best."

    Emily Hughes was chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee as Kwan's replacement.

    Kwan has been the face of figure skating for a decade, and she owned the spotlight at these games - despite being here for only four days. Her withdrawal is a loss for everyone, USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said.

    "Michelle Kwan means more to the United States Olympic Committee than maybe any athlete that's ever performed for the U.S. Olympic Committee," Ueberroth said. "She's been a leader, she's been gracious, she's somebody that cares for so many youngsters that are training in our country.

    "She's a real loss to all of the United States Olympic Committee and to the United States of America, and I think to the world. She's made a courageous decision."

    Olympic officials wasted little time approving the petition to put Hughes on the team. The 17-year-old, younger sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, was third at last month's national championships.

    She said in a Saturday interview with WNBC-TV in New York that she would be ready to travel to Turin if needed.

    "Just point me in the direction and I'm there," Hughes said.

    But that could be a challenge: Blizzard warnings were posted for the New York City area, where she lives, and dozens of flights were canceled at the city's three major airports.

    When Hughes gets here, she'll join Sasha Cohen and Kimmie Meissner on the U.S. team. The women's competition begins Feb. 21.

    Kwan said she would return to the United States so as not to be a distraction.

    "I'm a little bit shocked," Cohen said. "I know how tough it is to come back from an injury and get yourself together. It's great she tried, but things don't always work out."

    Kwan missed last month's U.S. nationals with a groin injury, and needed a medical exemption to join the Turin team. She was evaluated several times by U.S. Figure Skating doctors before she arrived in Turin, and they declared her fit to skate.

    But she said she pulled the groin when she tried a triple flip Saturday, and the injury worsened throughout the day. After examining her, Moeller said Sunday he does not believe the current injury is related to the groin problem Kwan had during the national championships.

    "She was cleared medically and told she had a complete recovery from the prior injuries," Moeller said. "Based on my assessment at this moment, I would have to say it's an acute new injury."

    This was Kwan's last gasp for Olympic gold. Though she's defined the sport for the past decade, winning five world and nine U.S. titles, she came up heartbreakingly short at the Olympics. The favorite in both Nagano and Salt Lake City, she settled for silver in 1998 and a bronze in 2002.

    Now 25, she hung around the past four years for one more shot at gold. But her hopes faded fast.

    She missed the Grand Prix season with a hip injury, then missed the nationals with the groin injury. She looked sharp during a Jan. 27 monitoring session that solidified her spot on the team, doing back-to-back run-throughs of her long and short programs.

    But she said the long plane ride to Italy, followed by marching in the opening ceremony, took a toll. By the time she returned to the athletes' village, she was starting to hurt.

    When she woke up Saturday morning, it wasn't any better.

    "It's an honor to represent your country. I didn't think twice about not going to the opening ceremony, or not going to practice. I have to get my legs under me," she said Sunday. "When I felt stiff, it's the Olympics, you've got to push. Unfortunately, it happened."

    She didn't do her first jump, a smooth triple toe loop, until almost 14 minutes into the workout. She did a single flip, landed on two feet on her first triple flip, and fell hard on her next attempt at the jump. Kwan made one last try, but could only do a double, and the frustration was clear on her face.

    More telling was her demeanor. With coach Rafael Arutunian still in transit, U.S. team leader Roger Glenn held her hand several times to comfort her. She had to wipe her eyes several times, and she left the practice 15 minutes before it ended - an early exit for a woman who is meticulous about preparation.
    She got treatment in the afternoon, but by evening she knew something was terribly wrong.

    "It's physical pain that's keeping me from performing and skating," she said. "But it's also emotional pain as well because I had to make this tough decision."

    That was clear with one look at her Sunday. Dressed in black, her eyes swollen, she had none of the sparkle the world has come to know. And though she tried to smile bravely, pain was etched across her face.

    "It's always been a dream to win the Olympics and it's always an honor to represent your country," said Kwan, whose eyes filled with tears with every word she spoke. "My parents are here ... and they always want me to be happy, for their baby to win the gold and make my dreams come true.

    "I have no regrets," she added, pausing to compose herself. "I tried my hardest. And if I don't win the gold, it's OK. I've had a great career. I've been very lucky. This is a sport, and it's beautiful."

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