Michelle Kwan sits as the most decorated figure skater – male or female – in the United States, having won 43 championships. She earned two Olympic medals, five world championships, and nine U.S. championship titles. Kwan competed in the three Olympics when Asian Americans were not often represented in popular culture.
Kwan competed at the senior level for more than 10 years during the most competitive era in women’s figure skating.
She dazzled crowds with her athleticism and artistry, taking silver behind Tara Lipiniski at the Nagano 1998 Games. Lipinksi became the youngest figure skater to win a gold in the Olympics, a year after nailing a triple loop-triple loop combination at the 1997 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
At the 2002 Games, Kwan won bronze, this time behind teammate Sarah Hughes.
Still the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee named Kwan the Sports Woman of the Year in 2003. Sher also became the first figure skater since Dick Button in 1949 to receive the James E. Sullivan Award.
Kwan considered returning to the 2010 Games, though she ultimately decided to pursue a degree in international studies from Denver University. In 2011, she earned a master’s degree in law and diplomacy.
Today, Kwan serves as the U.S. Ambassador to Belize. She previously worked under Condoleezza Rice as the first U.S. Diplomacy Envoy in which spoke with youth all over the world about leadership and social and educational issues. In 2010, Kwan was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, which advised Obama on how to help Americans lead healthy lifestyles.
She was an advisor to Secretary Clinton’s U.S. China Women’s Leadership Exchange and Dialogue. It focused on strengthening ties between the United States and China with regards to women’s issues.
Kwan is highly engaged with the Special Olympics. She was elected to its Board of Directors in 2010. She uses her platform to advocate for persons with intellectual disabilities.
U.S. Figure Skating renamed its Figure Skater of the Year award to the Michelle Kwan Trophy.