by Lorrie Kim
Originally posted to rec.sport.skating.ice.figure on October 3, 1997
I just read "Born to Skate: The Michelle Kwan Story" by Edward Z. Epstein, an unauthorized biography published by Random House, US$5.99.
It seems to have been aimed at near-adolescent readers. The author, it says in the bio, is a former Mid-Atlantic novice champion, and indeed the technical information in the book is respectful and detailed, for the most part. He is upfront about not having interviewed her (much, if at all). The book is culled from a zillion articles and television interviews that we have all seen; there's nothing new in there for most fans. There are nine photos on the front and back covers.
One funny/odd thing is that the author quotes or refers to everybody under the sun. Not just Sonja Henie or athletes such as Tiger Woods -- he brings in Deepak Chopra, LeAnn Rimes, Hanson -- he even sees fit to mention the breakup of Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow. It's kind of an interesting approach for a children's writer, to contextualize Kwan's life as well as speak to the varied interests of his readers.
From a skating point of view, it also means that he spends a good amount of time covering Michelle's important competitors, such as Kwiatkowski and Lipinski. His personal opinions slip out when he grouses about Slutskaya's unpointed toes or describes Butyrskaya's short as "a complex program that never for a moment seemed effortless."
As for errors, there were a few weird ones. He gives '94 world gold to Chen, not Sato; he wonders why Karen Kwan's technical marks at '96 Nationals had been "so low," and sighs that in figure skating, often the marks can't be understood -- as if he didn't know perfectly well that Karen lacked the three harder triples. But the way he writes about skating as a respectable sport, with elements that are worth learning to identify, makes up for these lapses.
About the only new thing I learned from the book was that Oksana Baiul helped with Kwan's "makeover" the summer she was plotting the Salome Offensive. Don't buy this book for yourself, but if you know somebody 8-12 years old who's a big Kwan fan, it's not too much money to spend.