- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

TURIN, Italy — After all the trouble Michelle Kwan went to in order to land her controversial spot on the U.S. Olympic team, she might not compete, after all.

The 25-year-old figure skater, hoping to participate in her third Olympics and win her first gold medal, aggravated a groin injury while sitting in the cold for four hours during Friday night’s opening ceremony. She hinted yesterday she might have to withdraw.

“I really have to pay attention to how I am feeling these days,” Kwan said after cutting short a practice session, during which she fell hard. “Dropping out, it’s not something I want to do, but I have to listen to what my feelings are.”

Kwan said the long airplane flight here also added to the problem.

It is the same injury that kept Kwan, a five-time world champion, out of the U.S. Championships last month in St. Louis. She was granted a special monitoring session, and passed to the satisfaction of skating officials.

But the process drew criticism and claims that the popular Kwan, who won the silver medal at the 1998 Games and the bronze medal in 2002, received special treatment.

Emily Hughes, who finished third in St. Louis but was knocked off the team in favor of Kwan, would take Kwan’s place if she can’t compete. Hughes’ sister, Sarah, won the 2002 women’s figure skating gold medal in Salt Lake City.

Clearly uncomfortable, Kwan cut short yesterday’s scheduled 40-minute practice session with 15 minutes remaining.

“Practice this morning wasn’t as easy-flowing as I wanted it to be,” she said. “I am going to have to gather myself together, gather my thoughts and practice better than I did this morning.”

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