Michelle's Learned to Skate!

Well, look at that! Michelle can skate!

I don't believe it.

The girl has edges.

I really don't.

Used to be she had everything but, but now -- she actually seems to have command of the six major points of the blade: Front, back, inner, outer, left and right!

Ladies and gentlemen, the kid's finally gotten the idea!

Okay, The Spiral is a little wobbly in places, but it actually looks like a spiral and not a media-posed photo these days.

I think the child has actually graduated from boppy little clotheshorse on blades to real skater. Can we remember the word, "child?" What was she in Nagano, seventeen? Not even legal in the US?

How fast has this child had to grow up to cope with the pressure? Is she even allowed to act like a child anymore?

Seventeen in Nagano? I think our entire culture can answer for this. Seventeen. I know I was sick.

She was having to act like -- not choosing to act, but being forced to act like -- she was 22 or 23.

Yes, it's nice to have mature competitors in the sport, but can't we at least draw the line at twenty-something?

Thank you.

Five Minutes To Ice Time

Ground yourself. Make sure you've got something in your stomach. Preferably light, like water or a sandwich or something -- maybe a couple of crackers. There ain't much room in those costumes. Now breathe. Stretch up. Stretch down. Sit quietly. Look around to see how other competitors are doing -- you need to remember it's not just "The Michelle Kwan Phenomenon" out there, or backstage either. You have been led to think the world revolves around you. It does not, and I cannot believe you ever wanted it that way. Check what colors other competitors are wearing. That's always a good grounding too. See, you're backstage just like everybody else. You don't have a special entrance just for The Queen Of The Competition. You're just you. Skate blades just like everybody else. You lace up your skates just like everybody else does. It's okay to be Michelle Kwan now.

Okay. Three minutes. Stretch up and down again. Make sure you feel comfortable in your costume -- last-minute adjustments. Now. If needed. Those things have never quite fit you. Check the straps -- do they feel comfortable? Make sure there are safety pins or whatever in case they don't. Those straps are crucial parts of your on-ice image, and you have been very, very focused on on-ice image. Does that skirt hang right? Are you okay? Good.

Do some kicks, both legs, at least as high as your waist and higher if you really feel like you want to stretch out That Spiral. If you want to focus on a particular move you're going to present to the audience, warm it up. Once. Now breathe. Relax. You're just Michelle Kwan, not MICHELLE KWAN.

Good girl.

Two minutes. Hair in place? Spangles okay? Where's the makeup? You are now focused and ready to go out onto the ice. Wait until the clearance is given -- you always want to be out there first. This isn't a practice session. You don't get extra brownie points for being early. Practice your entrances...

One minute. Breathe. You okay? Good.

"Ladies and gentlemen, from the United States, Michelle Kwan!"