Born in Torrance, California, Michelle is the third child of Danny Kwan and Estella Kwan, immigrants from Hong Kong. As a child, Kwan grew up speaking a mixture of Cantonese and English at home. Kwan’s interest in figure skating began at the age of five when she followed her two older siblings (ice hockey player Ron and figure skater Karen) onto the ice. Karen and Michelle began serious training when Michelle was about eight years old. They practiced three to four hours a day, waking up at 4:30am and arriving at the rink at 5:00am to skate before school, and then going back to the rink right after school to skate again. Paying for their increased skating-rink time led to financial hardship for Kwan’s working-class family. When Kwan was ten years old, her family could no longer afford a coach, but they were offered financial assistance by a fellow member of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club that allowed them to train at the Ice Castle International Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, California.
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