I didn't think I was going to be excited about the Olympics this year. I've always been a Winter Olympics junkie (well not always - they didn't interest me until 1994 when the whole Nancy & Tonya scandal was ensuing, but it made me a long-time figure skating fan) but this is the first Olympics that has experienced the full-on absence of Michelle Kwan.
Michelle has always been my favorite skater. I have rooted for her since the 1994 Nationals when, in the wake of the world's attention on Nancy and Tonya, Michelle jumped to second place and was named an alternate to the Olympic team after Nancy was granted a place despite her injury. She was a beacon of hope in a sport that had been besmirched by goons and hit men.
In 1998 she was the odds-on favorite to win the gold medal in Nagano after a near-perfect performance at the U.S. Nationals. But she piqued too soon and, in heartbreaking fashion, watched her wunderkind teammate, Tara Lipinski, steal the gold from her hands.
Salt Lake City was supposed to be her year of redemption, but the pressure of expectations and a fall on a triple flip in the long program sent her from first place to third place. My heart broke for her a second time.
A lack of a gold medal certainly did not hurt Michelle's career. Nine national and five world titles to her name, she was deemed "the greatest skater never to win gold" and is probably the most beloved skater to ever grace the sport. But, as the world watched her 3rd attempt at redemption fizzle away in Torino, my heart broke for her once again.
She didn't need a gold medal. She just deserved it. Her heart, passion, ability, and perseverance deserved it.
So as I sit down to watch the pairs short program tonight, I'm going to try really hard to be excited about figure skating again. But with Michelle's permanent absence from figure skating now written in stone, all I can think about is, "Where is the heart, the passion, the perfection?"
I wish there were more performances like this in today's skaters:
I'm just hoping that some skaters at the 2010 Olympics find a way to inspire me again.