American figure skater Michelle Kwan's quest for an Olympic gold medal has come to an end. An injury forced the 25-year-old Californian to pull out of the Turin Games.
U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth made the official announcement in Turin.
"The United States Olympic Committee announces today that five-time World champion and nine-time U.S. champion Michelle Kwan has made a decision to withdraw from the 2006 Olympic Games due to a new injury, commonly called a groin strain," he said.
After the announcement, a somber Kwan addressed the media.
"I wish I was here in better circumstances. You know after yesterday, going on the ice, feeling stiff, doing a triple-flip and pulling my groin again, just I do not think I can be 100 percent and I respect the Olympics too much to compete," said Kwan.
Kwan missed the Grand Prix season with a hip injury, then missed qualifying at the U.S. Nationals last month with a groin injury. But after skating well at a monitoring session January 27, Kwan received a medical exemption to join the Turin team.
But following the long plane ride to Italy and marching in the opening ceremony, Kwan started having pain. She took a hard fall in practice Saturday and uncharacteristically left the session early.
U.S. team doctor Jim Moeller said he did not believe the injuries were related.
"Based on my evaluation and my knowledge of previous evaluations that she had obtained from other physicians, she was cleared medically and told that she had a complete recovery from her prior injuries. And based on my assessment at this moment, I would have to assess that it is an acute new injury," said Dr. Moeller.
Kwan, who has won an Olympic bronze and silver medal, teared up numerous times as she expressed her feelings at the news conference.
"It has always been a dream to win the Olympics and it is always an honor to represent your country," she said. "But I have learned it is not about the gold, it is about the spirit of it and it is about the sport itself. I have no regrets. I tried my hardest. And if I do not win the gold, it is OK. I have had a great career. I have been very lucky. And you know, this is a sport, and it is beautiful."
The U.S. Olympic Committee has chosen 17-year-old Emily Hughes, who was third at Nationals, as Kwan's replacement. Emily is the younger sister of Sara Hughes, who won the women's Olympic figure skating gold medal four years ago.