IT TOOK just onepractice in Turin for Michelle Kwan's 12-year Olympic odyssey to end.Attempting a triple flip jump the day after the opening ceremonies, thenine-time U.S. and five-time world champion reinjured her right groin--the sameinjury that had kept her out of the U.S. Nationals in January. Early the nextmorning, at 2:30 a.m. local time, after being examined by Dr. Jim Moeller ofthe USOC, Kwan, 25, informed USOC officials that she'd be unable to compete inthe Games. The call went out immediately to first alternate Emily Hughes, 17,who was having dinner with her family at a Japanese restaurant on Long Island.She was eating a sushi roll named after her older sister, the 2002 Olympicchampion: Sarah Gold.
Kwan's departuremay spell trouble for NBC's ratings--the network offered her a spot in thebooth, which she declined--but her misfortune has an upside. Without the Kwansoap opera, attention at last may fall on the skaters who actually finished inthe top three at Nationals: Kimmie Meissner, 16, the youngest U.S. Olympian inTurin; Hughes, who was bumped from the team to make room for Kwan; and SashaCohen, 21, who'd finished higher than Kwan in the last two world championshipsand is a strong contender for gold.