Idol Chatter

What was that I just heard? Was that the collective voice of America sighing in sympathy when it heard that ice skating darling Michelle Kwan–winner of silver and bronze Olympic medals and numerous national and world championships–decided to drop out of this year’s competition because of a nagging groin injury?

Kwan, 25, was somber and stoic at her press conference Sunday when she made her announcement (though her eyes revealed the depth of her pain at never winning the gold). Plagued by her injury for months, Kwan worked hard to recover her winning form before succumbing to her fate. Her stated reason at the conference said it all: “I respect the Olympics too much to compete, and I don’t feel I can be at my best.”

Kwan was America’s star, the athlete around whom NBC organized its Olympic coverage, and the athlete for whom, I suspect, the entire Olympic-watching American population was rooting. I am sad also. When a person works so hard for so long and personifies the grace, faith, and dignity of her sport, you can’t help but want her to win the one thing that persistently eluded her.

But that’s also what makes the Olympics the Olympics. You just never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes athletes–such as speedskater Dan Jansen, who finally won a gold medal after chasing it through three Olympics–make good on a promise to the world. Sometimes, like Kwan, they can’t. I applaud Kwan for her efforts and for bowing out gracefully, instead of losing on the ice. I hope she continues to have the faith that has sustained her through all these tough and glorious years of skating.

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