Michelle Kwan says the first time she met Hillary Clinton was April 29, 1998, visiting the White House with the U.S. Olympic team, two months after the Nagano Winter Games.
Now, more than 18 years later, the two-time Olympic figure skating medalist is in the final days of trying to help get Clinton back to the White House.
She joined the campaign 16 months ago as a surrogate outreach coordinator, working with celebrity and politician endorsers. The list includes Katy Perry, Barbra Streisand, John Legend and Magic Johnson. If Kwan hasn’t spoken to them personally, she’s been in touch with their managers.
“Long hours,” Kwan said while rushing through the red carpet of the Women’s Sports Foundation awards in New York City on Wednesday.
Kwan, 36, appeared at the event with other female sports stars such as Billie Jean King, Laila Ali and a host of Olympic champions. She had to jet early, however, to attend a watch party for the third and final presidential debate between Clinton and Donald Trump.
Clinton has a unique relationship with the Olympics.
She sat next to Florence Griffith-Joyner in the frozen stands in Kvitfjell, Norway, at the Lillehammer 1994 men’s downhill. Clinton attended the start of the 1996 Olympic torch relay in Olympia, Greece. And she gave a speech for the failed New York City 2012 Olympic bid at an International Olympic Committee session in Singapore in 2005.
In 2006, Kwan was appointed the first U.S. public diplomacy envoy by then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Kwan continued in that role when Clinton succeeded Rice and then got what she called her “first real job” with the State Department, senior adviser for public diplomacy and public affairs, after earning her master’s degree in 2011.
She helped her husband, Clay Pell, in his 2014 Democratic bid for the Governor of Rhode Island. Pell finished third in his primary.
In the last year-plus, Kwan stumped for Clinton in at least 18 states, according to her social media logs. In speeches at universities or forums, she breaks the ice by remembering her experiences performing at nearby arenas. She knocks on doors and works the phones.
“Super fun,” Kwan has said, “and nerve-racking.”
Kwan hosted the Periscope of Clinton’s first campaign rally on Roosevelt Island just off Manhattan, not far from Kwan’s campaign headquarters desk in Brooklyn, on June 13, 2015.
“It really comes into play the skills that you learn in figure skating about determination, hard work, perseverance,” Kwan said on The Skating Lesson. “I think the schedule itself is kind of what was like training for the Olympic Games, the world championships. You wake up in the morning, determined, you have a set of goals, you organize, you’re just at it and you’re taking one day at a time. And then, before you know, it’s 7 o’clock at night.”
Kwan is documenting the last 100 days of the campaign on her Instagram. Where will she be posting from on Nov. 8?
“I can’t tell you that,” she said, smiling, on the red carpet Wednesday night.
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