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Sara Hughes Illustration: The Women’s’ Ice Skating Competition in the 2002 Winter Olympics was supposed to be a clash of the Titans for the gold with U.S. skater Michelle Kwan pitted against Irina Slutskaya. Sara Hughes, a 16-year-old fourth place contender, however, stunned the world when she took the gold.

Both Kwan and Slutskaya felt the pressure of the event. Kwan fell during her performance and Slutskaya’s performance appeared quite stilted. Hughes, on the other hand, wasn’t concerned about the outcome. She stepped out on to the rink and skated her heart out. As a result, she skated a performance that was both beautiful and flawless. Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory had this to say:

“When it was over, she was incredulous. It was as if someone else had been on the ice. Her expression as she greeted her equally unbelieving coach, Robin Wagner, said plainly, ‘Did I do THAT?’ and ‘Was that ME out there?’ Her attitude seemed to be that she had been given this gift, which it was fun to share. What she had that the others lacked was joy.”

Many people are afraid to step out in...

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