Michelle Kwan: East of Eden
Michelle Kwan dominated ladies' figure skating for more than a decade. With five World titles, nine national victories, and two Olympic medals to her credit, from late 1995 to early 2005, she was never once off the podium.
The young phenom scored her first major victory at the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival. Skating in front of a 25,000 strong record crowd at San Antonio's Alamodome in Texas, Kwan charmed the audience with her infectious confidence and youthful grace.
Dressed in pink satin with a big bow to match, she sprinkled her program with six difficult triple jumps. It was the first time Kwan used the “East of Eden,” music, something that would become synonymous throughout her lengthy career.
In 2003, one year after a crushing loss at the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Kwan somehow found the inner strength to move on. Showcasing a brand new style and outlook, she was sheer magic at the 2003 World Championships in Washington D.C.
Dressed in a sophisticated blue and gold dress, her performance to Vanessa Mae's heart-pumping “Aranjuez” left the spectators spellbound.
Though she defeated her archrival, Elena Sokolova of Russia, as well as her compatriots, Sasha Cohen and Sarah Hughes, there was a sense that Kwan no longer skated for titles but for the simple joy of performing.
What separated Kwan from her rivals was the innate ability to invite the audience along for the journey. It was a shared appreciation between the skater and the fans that eventually made the young American the most recognized name in skating on the planet.