Michelle Kwan was in Beijing on the Today show this morning at 9:45 a.m. ET (in Beijing, it was 9:45 p.m.) and spoke with Ann Curry about being part of the presidential delegation for the Closing Ceremonies, whether she will compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and her words of advice for the U.S. athletes competing in Beijing. Michelle, looking very professional and business-like in a black skirt suit, also told Ann that she plans to continue her education in International Affairs at the University of Denver. Watching her interview, I could totally see her being involved in international politics -- She seems really comfortable in the role of a diplomat and this could potentially be the next career that defines her.
Transcript of the interview is below (You can also watch the video interview here):
CURRY: Michelle Kwan, the most decorated American figure skater, is here in Beijing. She, of course, is not competing in the Summer Games, but she is here to represent the United States. Michelle, great to see you, good morning!
KWAN: Good morning.
CURRY: Well, good morning in the States. You know, you’re part actually of a delegation that was created by President Bush, and in this delegation, let me just name a couple of names: Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Labor, we’ve got Michael Levitt, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, we’ve got Karen Hughes, we’ve got Peter Ueberroth, the President of the USOC, and Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice, and then there’s you. (Michelle laughs) What are you doing there? How did you get involved and what brings you to it?
KWAN: Well as you know, President Bush was here for the Opening Ceremonies and he selected a delegation for the Closing Ceremonies, and the delegation is a symbol of friendship between the United States and China, and the ongoing productive partnership between the United States and China.
CURRY: You want to make a difference and your family, your ancestors, came from Hong Kong, right?
KWAN: My mother and father were born in Hong Kong.
CURRY: And so, this has been a very special time for you, I think it would seem to me, to be in China for these Games. Is it true that they have energized you, being at these Games, and reminded you of the joy of being at the Olympics?
KWAN: Being here in China has been an amazing experience. I’ve been here a few times now as an American Public Diplomacy Envoy and now as part of the presidential delegation. And China has changed tremendously, in a great way. You know, as an envoy, I’ve had a chance to come to China with Under Secretary Karen Hughes and to talk to young people. And I’ve realized -- They’re so open, and they’re curious about things outside of China, and, especially the United States, and it’s nice to see such great energy.
CURRY: Giving all these speeches about dedication and hard work, the lessons of your family, and now here you are presenting, not just in China, but in Argentina and in other countries as well -- But have you, by being here also, made a decision about whether or not you will compete in Vancouver?
KWAN: After watching Michael Phelps, watching beach volleyball, watching Shawn Johnson and Nastia, I’m inspired! I’m like “Vancouver’s a year-and-a-half away!”
CURRY: Because you know, you’ve got something you want. You’ve won a silver and a bronze –
KWAN: There’s one thing missing (laughter).
CURRY: There’s one thing missing and it’s very very shiny.
KWAN: But seriously, you have to take it -- you have to have your heart, soul and mind to be at the Olympics, and you know, I’ve left all doors open and I haven’t closed any doors yet so, gotta make that decision soon.
CURRY: So you’re thinking about it. You’re actually thinking about it.
KWAN: I’m actually thinking about it.
CURRY: We would all love to see you to win gold so that would be terrific. Now, you also have schooling ahead of you because, you’re studying, what, International Affairs in school at the University of Denver. Besides skating, which is a lot of work, and being an envoy all over the world for the President, which is a lot of work, what is your plan with this degree?
KWAN: Well, I hope to go to grad school and continue my education. But I am busy -- I’m busy skating, working out, being a full-time student, and also working with the State Department as an envoy. So I’ve got my plate full, but I’m having a great time, I’m enjoying myself.
CURRY: In the meantime, there are a lot of people still competing over the next several days -- the U.S. men’s basketball team, BMX –you know, the first time. What would be your words for all those people who are still competing? Your words of wisdom?
KWAN: The words of wisdom to athletes – that America’s really proud of you. You’re here at the Olympic Games, you’ve trained hours and hours. And you’re trained, go out there and have fun, and soak it all in. You’re here in Beijing, in China, just have a good time because the two-and-a-half weeks will fly by.
CURRY: Michelle Kwan, awesome, terrific to see you, all the best to you. Hope to see you in Vancouver.
KWAN: Thank you.