|ESPN.com: Figure Skating||[Print without images]|
|Michelle Kwan pulled out of the Olympics one day after a disappointing practice.|
What do we want anyway? Would we be happier if, after losing in Nagano eight years ago, Kwan had instead signed on for a cross-country tour of "Titanic on Ice?" Would it have been better had she dropped out of the sport, started drinking heavily and wound up playing Hold'em on Celebrity Poker Showdown? Would it be better if there was an age limit so that when a skater becomes too old for R. Kelly, she also becomes too old for the Olympics?
Kwan won the previous eight U.S. titles before missing nationals last month because of her groin injury. So if the USOC gave her the benefit of the doubt in this case, she earned it. And when she realized she would not be healthy enough to compete very late Saturday night, she made the decision in time to give someone else a chance."When I first put in my petition, I believed I would be 100 percent by the time the Olympics came around," she told a roomful of reporters Sunday through watery eyes. "After yesterday, going on the ice and feeling stiff and doing the flip and pulling my groin again, I don't think I can be 100 percent and I respect the Olympics too much to compete when I don't feel I'm at my best. "It was the toughest decision I ever had to make, but I know it's the right one." No one was cheated here. Emily Hughes will compete, just as she would have had Kwan never filed the petition. "I think it was fair that Michelle had all the opportunities to make it the Olympic team and it's unfortunate she's hurt and can't compete," Hughes said in a teleconference call from New York.
Hughes said she was preparing her routine for the World Championships and would be ready to compete whenever the time came up "and right now, it's the Olympics."
The only one who's hurt by this is Kwan (other than NBC's ratings, naturally)."It was always the dream to win the Olympics. It's always an honor to represent your country," Kwan said. "[But] I've learned that it's not about the gold. It's about the spirit of it. It's about the sport itself. I have no regrets. I tried my hardest, and if I don't win the gold, it's OK. I've had a great career and I've been very lucky. I'll miss the sport. It's beautiful." Kwan wasn't selfish trying for a gold medal. She was normal. And if by some chance she's still skating, still "hanging around" in four years, I would be happy to have Kwan represent our country in Vancouver. Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.