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Dream over as Kwan Pulls out of Olympics
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US figure skating star Michelle Kwan's dream of winning the only title missing from her illustrious career ended yesterday when she was forced to withdraw from the Turin Olympics after picking up a new injury in practice.

The five-time world champion injured her right hip adductor while landing a triple flip jump in her first pratice session on Saturday.

The injury bothered her all day and she was diagnosed with severe groin strain.

"Taking myself off the team is the most difficult decision I've ever had to make but it's the right decision," a tearful nine-time US champion Kwan told a press conference.

But she refused to discuss the prospect of ending her career.

"I can't even think past right now," she said.

"The injury prevents me from skating my best and I've said all along that if I couldn't skate to the level that I expected from myself I'd withdraw from the team.

"It's physical pain that is keeping me from performing but also emotional as well.

"I'd love to compete in my third Olympics, but I think it's all about the US bringing their best team to the Olympics. I wouldn't want to stand in the way of that.

"The best thing is to go home and get better. I wouldn't want to be a distraction."

Her withdrawal has opened the way for 16-year-old Emily Hughes, sister of 2002 Olympic champion Sarah, to compete.

Hughes finished third at the US nationals but lost her spot on the team after Kwan was given a medical bye.

She will arrive in Turin next week.

Kwan, 25, insisted that she had felt good coming to Turin despite her lack of competition this season with groin and hip injuries.

Her last major event was the 2005 world championships where she finished fourth.

"I felt good and ready to go," she insisted.

At first she blamed the stiffness she felt after training Saturday on spending four hours in the cold during the opening ceremony at the Olympic stadium the previous night.

But as the pain grew steadily worse Saturday she was forced to consult with US team doctor Dr. Jim Moeller early in the morning.

Dr Moeller said: "During training yesterday Ms Kwan injured her adductor muscle in her right hip, commonly called a groin strain.

"This injury limits her function making it impossible for her to jump, land and skate, effectively without risk of serious injury."

Moeller said that the injury was unrelated to prior injuries.

Kwan won the world title in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003.

She never won the Olympic gold - taking silver 1998 and a bronze in 2002.

But she insisted that not winning the Olympic gold would not sully her achievements as the most decorated American skater with 43 championship wins.

"I've learned it's not about the gold, it's about the spirit of it and the sport," she said.

(China Daily February 13, 2006)

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