40 greatest female athletes: Michelle Kwan

As an eighth-grader, Michelle Kwan finished eighth at the 1994 world championships. Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

As a 13-year-old, Michelle Kwan was thrust into one of the ugliest scenes in figure skating history when she was sent to the 1994 Winter Olympics as an alternate following an attack on Nancy Kerrigan that Tonya Harding was later linked to.

And while Kwan didn't get a chance to skate in Lillehammer -- Kerrigan took silver and Harding finished eighth -- it was from those ugly roots that one of the most artistic and elegant figure skaters of all time grew.

Kwan's career ended with five world championships and nine U.S. titles, but she was never able to capture Olympic gold, settling for a silver in 1998 and a bronze in 2002.

Read the complete story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins

No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva

No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams