Kwan receives Olympic team spot on medical bye

Monday, January 16, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Michelle Kwan has been handed one more chance to chase that elusive Olympic gold. Now she has to prove she deserves it.

While Sasha Cohen earned her spot in Turin by winning the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night, Kwan needed an assist from a selection committee.

By a 20-3 vote, it gave the nine-time U.S. and five-time world champion a medical bye under the condition she proves by Jan. 27 that she's fully recovered from a groin injury and able to compete.

"I'm my worst critic," Kwan said from California, where she watched the championships on television. "If I feel that I can't be ready, I will pull myself off the team. I've said that before and I'm sticking to it. If I don't believe I can be 100 percent and at my best, I don't believe it's good for me to go."

Cohen and Kimmie Meissner were givens after their 1-2 finish. But the committee took the better part of an hour to put Kwan ahead of third-place finisher Emily Hughes, who was designated an alternate along with Katy Taylor.

"We looked at basically the Olympic selection criteria we're dealing with ... and we had a healthy discussion," said Bob Horen, chairman of the International Committee that made the decision.

"... We felt she had a better chance to medal."

But Kwan can't start packing for Turin yet.

If a five-member committee decides Kwan isn't healthy or fit enough to skate, she would be replaced by Hughes, the little sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah.

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