Michelle Kwan Shoots For a Sixth Straight Title

Michelle Kwan spoke to the media after her first practice session in Dallas.

Michelle Kwan arrived in Dallas Tuesday night and took to the practice ice at the main arena Wednesday morning to begin her quest for a record-tying sixth consecutive U.S. ladies' title.

Following a successful opening practice session Wednesday, the 22-year-old Torrance, Calif., native told the gathered media that unlike previous U.S. Championships, she doesn't come to Dallas with a clear label.

"I've been the favorite, the underdog, the little jumping bean. I've been everything. Any one you choose will be fine with me," Kwan said. "I've definitely had my ups and downs at nationals, but I feel mentally and physically prepared this time. I'm nervous, of courseI'm human."

Kwan said she doesn't feel as though she is at a disadvantage to other competitors who may be planning more technically ambitious programs here in Dallas.

"When I used to compete at nationals ... if you had all of the triple jumps then you were in the top three," she said. "Now, all of the senior ladies have triple jumps. I don't feel like I'm hanging on. I feel like I'm physically ready."

If she earns the title here in Dallas, Kwan will tie U.S. ladies figure skating legends Maribel Vinson (1928-1933) and Gretchen Merrill (1943-1948) as the only ladies to win six straight U.S. titles. This could mark Kwan's seventh U.S. title overall - a total that would place her in second place for most U.S. titles behind Teresa Weld Blanchard's nine. Kwan is going after the title despite competing in only one event - Smart Ones Skate America - this year. Now, she says she's having fun and taking it as it goes.

"Some years I was really red hot and some years I've had my downs," she said. "Those downs were second (place finishes), maybe third, but it all boils down to why I'm in the sport and that's for the pure joy. When August rolled around, I said OK, I've got a few options here and I weighed them. It took me a while, that's why I didn't commit myself to any competitions. No, I don't have a mission. My mission is to keep on going."

So will Kwan be at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy? "[It's] not too far-fetched," she said. "One thing at a time. I'm having fun right now."

Kwan will open her bid on Thursday night in the short program skating to the Peter Gabriel composition "The Feeling Begins."