navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies California Studies
Biographies Unit Biographies

Michelle Kwan 1980–
World Champion Figure Skater

Figure skater Michelle Kwan has won more U.S. and World Championships than any other skater, male or female. Her titles include five World Championships and nine U.S. Championships. Nobody in history has won either competition more times. Kwan has also earned 54 perfect scores of 6.0 from the judges! She is known especially for her grace and artistry.

Kwan has not been so successful at the Olympics. She placed second in 1998 and third in 2002. She planned to compete in the 2006 Olympics, but withdrew at the last minute due to an injury. “Taking myself off the team is the most difficult decision I've ever had to make,” Kwan said, “but it's the right decision. This injury prevents me from skating my best, and I've said all along that if I couldn't skate to the level that I expected from myself I'd withdraw from the team.”

Kwan grew up in Torrance, California. She is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Kwan's older brother played ice hockey and her sister figure-skated. When Kwan was five, she began skating too. She won her first competition at the age of seven. She began competing nationally when she was 12. By the time she was 14 she earned a silver medal at the U.S. championships.

Skating keeps Kwan busy, but she still finds time to learn and help others. She is a college student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She also raises money for children's hospitals through a group called the Children's Miracle Network.

Comprehension Check

Why is Kwan such a famous ice skater?

Critical Thinking

Think of your favorite professional athlete. In what ways is Kwan like him or her?