FIGURE SKATING

Kwan keeps piling up trophies


Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 10:55 p.m.

DALLAS - Forget about Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill. Maybe Michelle Kwan should be comparing herself to Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.

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Michelle Kwan performs in the 2003 Skating Spectacular in Dallas, Sunday. Kwan won a gold medal Saturday in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship. Medal winners from the U.S. Figure Skating Championship perfomed Sunday in the Spectacular.

AP Photo/Donna McWilliam

The top skater of her generation, Kwan long ago cemented her spot atop skating's list of all-time greats. By winning her sixth straight national title and seventh overall Saturday night, she demonstrated the kind of dominance that transcends her sport.

Only one skating stars, Maribel Vinson, has more U.S. championships, with nine. Kwan's six straight are the longest streak by an American skater since Dick Button won seven straight men's titles from 1946-52.

``To be mentioned in the same breath, the same sentence as legends like Maribel Vinson Owen, it's really hard to believe,'' Kwan said. ``When I was young I really wanted to be remembered as a great skater, not for titles.

``I'm skating for my heart and for myself, and I'm enjoying every moment of it,'' she added. ``I've had such a great career.''

And there's no sign it's going to end any time soon.

After Kwan's latest Olympic disappointment, there were plenty of naysayers who said her time had passed. She was 22, practically ancient in a sport that prizes youth, and she didn't have the technical edge she once did.

There wasn't much left for her to prove, either. She may not have won Olympic gold, but she had silver and bronze and four world championship titles.

But, like Jordan and Woods, Kwan has a way of roaring back after a disappointment. And the U.S. Figure Skating Championships were no different.

This was the toughest field in years, a competition so loaded with talent it rivaled a world championships. Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes was looking for her first national title, as was Sasha Cohen, the top skater on the Grand Prix circuit this season.

Reigning world junior champion Ann Patrice McDonough was a possible threat, too.

``It's encouraging to have such great competition in the United States,'' Hughes said. ``It makes us all really strong skaters, better competitors.''

But none was better than Kwan. Her free skate, to ``Aranjuez,'' was art on ice. She skated so freely and with such visible joy it was as if she were once again that little girl who thrilled at the feel of the ice and the rush of cold air on her face.

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