Should Injured Michelle Kwan Be on Olympic Team?

ByABC News via logo

Jan. 12, 2006 — -- Should injured nine-time skating champ Michelle Kwan be given a spot on the women's Olympic figure skating team, possibly at the expense of healthier, more favored teammates?

Kwan skipped this week's national championships in St. Louis because of a groin injury and formally petitioned the U.S. Figure Skating Committee to be placed on the women's team for the Winter Olympics.

The winner of the national championship will automatically get a spot, and the committee will then choose two other skaters for the team. Kwan is expected to be granted one of the remaining spots if she shows she is healthy enough to participate by the time the women's Olympic skating competition begins on Feb. 22.

For Kwan, 25, this could be her last chance to compete in the Olympics. Although she is not competing in the national championships, some skating observers believe Kwan's championship credentials should be enough to earn her a place on the Olympic team.

"She is a nine-time U.S. national champ," USA Today columnist Christine Brennan said on "Good Morning America." "She is the five-time world champ. Even more important, I do believe if she's healthy, she's one of the top-three U.S. skaters right now."

Kwan's situation is not unprecedented. In 1994 Nancy Kerrigan missed the national championships but was allowed on the Olympic team after the infamous Tonya Harding attack, which cost Kwan the opportunity to compete.

It has been a difficult season for Kwan. A hip problem sidelined her for the Grand Prix events, then she injured her groin on Dec. 19. She has fallen short of expectations at the Olympics, as she has failed to win Olympic gold; she won the silver medal in 1998 and bronze in 2002.

Still, analysts believe Kwan will not let her desire to compete for the last time on an Olympic stage -- and to win the gold medal -- cheat another skater out of a spot on the team if she is not healthy enough.

"I think what will happen is if she's not ready -- she even said this -- if she's not 100 percent, she said she will take herself off the team," Brennan said. "I believe the quality athlete, quality person Michelle Kwan is, I think she would do exactly that."

The U.S. Olympic Committee has until Jan. 30 to file team rosters for the Olympics, including alternates. The committee could still replace Kwan with an alternate if she isn't ready for competition.

Reported by ABC News' John Berman.