Figure Skating

Vera Wang talks about her Olympics ambitions

The fashion designer competed in figure skating at the national level and nearly qualified for the 1968 Games. Since then, she has designed Olympic costumes for skaters like Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek.

By ZK Goh ·

Vera Wang is a world-renowned fashion designer, but did you know she nearly qualified for the Olympic Games when she was younger?

The American, whose designs have been worn by public figures and celebrities, recently revisited her sporting career with the South China Morning Post's Post Magazine.

Born in New York City in 1947 to Shanghainese immigrants, the young Wang began figure skating aged eight, and was a very promising pairs skater, competing in the 1968 U.S. National Championships in Philadelphia. "I was completely dedicated to it," she revealed.

However, she and partner James Stuart failed to qualify for the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble.

"I was devastated when I did not qualify for the Olympic team," Wang said.

Vera Wang attends the 2019 US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

Fashion design

That setback marked the end of her athletic career. However, fortuitously, it also led to her finding her new love – fashion.

"I had a nervous breakdown and ended up doing a semester in Paris," she said of her shattered Olympic dreams.

It was in the French capital, she added, "where I realised I had a passion for fashion."

After graduating from college, Wang entered the fashion journalism industry in which she worked until 1987 when she became a designer, first for Ralph Lauren before going independent two years later.

However, her sporty side never left her.

"I have always been athletic and worked out since I was young," she said.

Indeed, during her career Wang has ended up designing numerous figure skating outfits, not an easy task even for the most experienced of designers.

She explained to PEOPLE in 2018: "If one strap were to break, or if the beading on the sleeve gets caught when they turn, their whole Olympics is over. That is how serious it is."

Among the Olympic skaters she has created costumes for are Nancy Kerrigan at the 1992 and 1994 Games, Michelle Kwan (1998 and 2002), Olympic champion Evan Lysacek at Vancouver 2010, and Nathan Chen (2018).

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Asian-American figure skaters

Had Wang qualified for the 1968 Olympics, she would have become the first Asian-American Olympic figure skater, pre-dating Tiffany Chin (Sarajevo 1984) by 16 years.

It wasn't until Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992 that an Asian-American would win Olympic figure skating gold.

Since then, Asian-Americans have been a regular part of U.S. figure skating teams.

Chen has won the men's singles national title four years in a row, and was one of seven skaters of Asian-American descent on the PyeongChang 2018 team.

That number, seven, was exactly half the U.S. team in PyeongChang, and was a record for the team according to U.S. Figure Skating.

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