Author: Jennifer Calfas
In the decade after Michelle Kwan was forced to withdraw from the 2006 Winter Olympics due to a severe injury, the legendary figure skater has accomplished a lot off the ice.
A board member of the Special Olympics, a diplomat and once a coordinator for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Kwan told MONEY she has not stopped following her passions — a career move that has been greatly aided by the lessons she learned while ice skating.
But you don’t have to be an Olympic medalist or World Champion figure skater to learn those lessons. Indeed, Kwan said playing any kind of sport can be the secret to success.
“I would encourage people to participate in sports,” Kwan told MONEY this week. “You don’t have to dream of being an Olympic or a professional athlete.”
Kwan cited a recent study that found a hefty majority of executives play or have played some kind of sport — particularly with women in C-suite level positions. An overwhelming majority, 96%, of the women surveyed by Ernst & Young said they played sports.
While Kwan is best known to Americans for her legacy on the ice, she said she has faced a number of hardships while a competitive figure skater that have informed her career today. There were the times she fell during a routine in front of millions of viewers. Or when she didn’t quite capture that Olympic gold, including the time she took home the silver instead of gold at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, where she was favored to win.
After competing in the Olympics twice, Kwan went on to earn her undergraduate and graduate degrees and became a diplomat for the United States as a public advocacy envoy through the U.S. State Department. Kwan is currently working on the 2019 World Summer Games through the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi.
Kwan said the setbacks she experienced on the world stage at the Olympics only made her hardships during graduate school at Tufts University several years later more manageable.