Diary of a crazed fangirl.

The first Olympics that Mike and I experienced together were the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. I heard that they didn’t have very good ratings, but Mike and I watched them faithfully all the same. While I will watch any Olympic event, the Summer Olympics don’t capture my heart like the Winter Games do. I like the swimming and the running and the gymnastics, but I don’t love them like I do the figure skating.

Some of my earliest Olympic memories are of watching figure skating – Katarina Witt, especially. I guess the 1988 Olympics are the first ones I remember very well, because I remember the battle between Witt and Debi Thomas. I remember everyone talking about Brian Boitano and the Battle of the Brians. I remember watching the competition with my mom, and the exhibition later on. That was probably when I started getting into figure skating.

A few years later, in the midst of the Nancy/Tonya showdown, a new skater caught my eye – Michelle Kwan. She was about my age, and I always enjoyed watching her. My mom and I both became avid fans, watching her skate on TV at every opportunity (much to my dad’s dismay). In 1998, my roommate and I watched in horror (at least, I watched in horror – I think I remember my roommate taking the opposite position just to bug me) as Tara Lipinski won the gold. A huge disappointment, I thought, but there’s still Salt Lake City. And I watched as Kwan continued to skate well at Nationals and at Worlds, hoping that Salt Lake City would be her chance.

As we all know, it wasn’t to be. Mike, though he knew I was a fan, didn’t know the extent of my fandom until I sat crying on the couch after the medal ceremony, after it had all fallen apart. He didn’t know what to do as I cried through the exhibition, when she skated to “Fields of Gold.” I cried at other things, too (the Olympics always make me cry), but that exhibition really stands out as a strong memory from those Olympics – the announcers were crying, Michelle Kwan was crying, and I sat in the second bedroom watching TV and grading papers and bawling my eyes out as Mike played XBox in the living room.

For Mother’s Day that year, I took my mom to see the Olympic Champions on Ice when they came to Greensboro. I got to see many of the skaters who are still competing – Irina Slutskaya, Yevgeny Plushenko, and, of course, Michelle Kwan. I cried then, too, when she did her signature spiral. I (cried as I) watched her get her spark back and skate incredibly at Nationals. I thought maybe there would be a hope for the 2006 Olympics. As they approached, though, I knew I didn’t really want to see her skate at another Olympics, because I knew that the sport had changed, and that her injuries meant that she couldn’t skate her best. When she won the spot on the team, Mike sent me an email link to the article, and I sent him back a message that simply said: πŸ˜₯ .

We watched the opening ceremony on Friday night, and before they got to the ceremony, NBC showed this thing about Turin and its history and the history of Olympic competition that reduced me, yet again, to a blubbering mess. I tried to play it off, but I love the thrill of the Olympics, the tension of the competition. Mike knows that, has learned so much about me since 2002, knows me so well, that on Sunday morning he approached me cautiously and said, “I have some good news and some bad news, and they’re the same thing.” He watched my face carefully as he said, “Michelle Kwan dropped out of the Olympics.” I felt a sense of relief, that I wouldn’t have to be on pins and needles as I watched the program, and for most of the day it was stronger than my sense of regret. But that night, as I watched the Olympic coverage, they did a tribute to Michelle Kwan’s career, and I saw so many of the moments I remembered – her first Nationals, different routines I saw her skate so many times, costumes I remembered, the two Olympics that she skated in. And I was sad. It was time to move on, but the changing of the guard is always hard to watch.

I know all of this sounds silly, but, like I said, the Olympics – especially figure skating – really capture my heart. For over a decade, I’ve been a Michelle Kwan fan. I’m both disappointed for her and ready to move on. And so, when I watch figure skating this year, I will be cheering for Sasha Cohen, who is always exciting to watch (I was going to cheer for her anyway, to win the gold, and just hope for Michelle Kwan to do her best, but now I can watch with an undivided heart). I didn’t like her much before the 2002 Olympics, but she seems to have grown up a lot (I think coming in fourth did her some good), and she’s so strong and graceful. No matter what happens, I’ll probably get a little teary that night, thinking about what might have been. But that’s okay. In the end, that’s why I love the Olympics.

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9 Comments

  1. I am right there with you on the Michelle Kwan stuff, Kari. I have very similar memories of her Olympic performances. However, mine involved violence towards my sarcastic roommate during the Salt Lake City games. Anyways, nice to see other people who have cheered for Michelle Kwan over the years.

    Posted 2/14/2006 at | Permalink
  2. Kari

    I almost committed violence towards my roommate during the ’98 games. So I understand you there, Bethany.

    Posted 2/14/2006 at | Permalink
  3. Fortunately for her, all I had nearby was a slipper – but I was pretty upset!

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  4. Meredith

    This is not related, but I was looking over your blog and really like your quote up in the right hand corner. Just wanted to let you know~

    Posted 2/14/2006 at | Permalink
  5. Kari

    I just used my words, Bethany. Mean angry words. hehe.

    Meredith – I picked and chose from a couple of different translations, I think, but it’s from 1 Corinthians 13.

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  6. Kari, I’m also right there with you – it was a sad, sad day two summers ago when I was moving out of my room and had to take down the Michelle Kwan posters! πŸ™ I was SO looking forward to watching her skate in this Olympics, but I agree with you, if she wasn’t going to be 100%, it’s better to go out this way instead of doing really poorly. I haven’t seen the tribute yet, but I’m thinking I’ll watch it in a little while, and I guarantee I’ll cry. I get choked up just watching a beautiful pairs skating routine, I’m gonna bawl watching the girls’ skating next week! So, Michelle-Kwan-longtime-fans unite! It helps having other people understand. πŸ™‚

    (I almost did violence to Brandon during the opening ceremonies for the sarcastic comments he made about Michelle Kwan, until he realized it really WAS a big deal to me, and quit. πŸ˜‰ )

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  7. scott

    you know, i don’t really remember hearing about her in ’94, but when they were doing the ‘looks back’ and said she was an alternate, she totally got robbed. tonya harding was and still is, a joke. i feel bad for michelle kwan that she didn’t get to skate, and i feel bad that i actually was cheering for sarah hughes in ’02. sorry ladies.

    Posted 2/14/2006 at | Permalink
  8. Kari

    Scott, we call her “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” in our house. Actually, I’m the only one who does that. Mike kind of likes her. Or, he did, until he realized I was about to do violence to him. Now he only likes her in secret. It was a great Olympic moment for sure – she really did skate an amazing inspired performance that night. But it was still really sad for me to watch.

    At the time, it wasn’t that big of a deal that Michelle Kwan didn’t get to go in ’94, but now I’m like, TONYA HARDING? Are you kidding me? hehe.

    Sarah: I like the posse of Michelle Kwan fans that we are accumulating. Good job on letting Brandon know the way things are.

    Posted 2/14/2006 at | Permalink
  9. scott

    i’m glad i’m far enough away that no violence could be done to me. πŸ™‚

    Posted 2/14/2006 at | Permalink

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