Kwan Turns Down NBC Job Offer

Figure Skater Michelle Kwan at a press conference in Turin, Italy, Sunday Feb. 12. Kwan spoke about her withdrawal from the games due to a groin injury.
AP
Michelle Kwan won't be on the ice, and she won't be behind a microphone either.

Soon after an injured Kwan bowed out of the games, NBC courted the athlete they had banked on being its biggest draw, hoping to lure her into the broadcast booth.

But Kwan turned down the job offer, saying she didn't want to be a distraction for remaining members of the U.S. Olympic figure skating team, NBC Sports spokesman Michael McCarley said Sunday.

NBC Universal Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol made Sunday's offer only an hour after her news conference, when she had come to NBC's studios to be interviewed by Bob Costas.

The star withdrew from the Olympics on Sunday because of a strained groin muscle, ending her quest for her first gold medal in what was expected to be one of the most compelling stories in Turin.

Kwan cut short her first practice at the games Saturday after straining the muscle, and the injury worsened as the day wore on. She said she didn't want to drop out, but after Dr. Jim Moeller evaluated her early Sunday morning, she withdrew.

"I wish I was here in better circumstances," Kwan said Sunday morning, her voice lifeless and her face somber. "When I first put in my petition, I said I believe I'd be 100 percent by time the Olympics came around. But yesterday, after going on ice and feeling stiff ... I don't think that I can be 100 percent.

"I respect the Olympics too much to compete and I don't feel I can be at my best."

Emily Hughes was chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee as Kwan's replacement, reports CBS News correspondent Steve Futterman.

Peter Ueberroth, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, called Kwan's withdrawal a "loss."

"Michelle Kwan means more to the United States Olympic Committee then maybe any athlete that's ever performed for the U.S. Olympic Committee," Ueberroth said. "She's been a leader, she's been gracious, she's somebody that cares for so many youngsters that are training in our country. She's a real loss to all of the United States Olympic Committee and to the United States of America and I think to the world, and she's made a courageous decision."

Olympic officials approved 17-year-old Hughes as Kwan's replacement a few hours later. Hughes was the third-place finisher at last month's national championships and younger sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes.

She said in a Saturday interview with WNBC-TV in New York that she would be ready to travel to Turin if needed.

"Just point me in the direction and I'm there," Hughes said.

David Raith, executive director of U.S. Figure Skating, said he talked to Hughes while she was at dinner with her family Saturday night.

"She expressed her wishes for a recovery for Michelle, but also was very, very excited she'll now become a member of the US Olympic team," Raith said.

"I'm a little bit shocked," said U.S. teammate Sasha Cohen. "I know how tough it is to come back from an injury and get yourself together. It's great she tried, but things don't always work out."

Kwan missed last month's U.S. nationals with a groin injury, and needed a medical exemption to join the Turin team. She was evaluated several times by U.S. Figure Skating doctors before she arrived in Turin, and they declared her fit to skate.

Moeller said Sunday he does not believe the current injury is related to the groin problem Kwan had during the national championships.

"She was cleared medically and told she had a complete recovery from the prior injuries," Moeller said. "Based on my assessment at this moment, I would have to say it's an acute new injury."