Four minutes of impractical perfection at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics have moved U.S. figure skating electors to name Long Island's Sarah Hughes to the sport's hall of fame, the organization announced Thursday.
Hughes, 24, who officially will be inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame during January's national championship event in Spokane, Wash., called the honor "exciting" and "very humbling." And she kidded, "This time of the year, I also have my immortality in Adam Sandler's 'Chanukah Song,' so I feel doubly blessed."
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Then 16, Hughes produced one of the major upsets in Olympic history in Salt Lake City, becoming the first skater to levitate from fourth place after the short program to win gold. Her unblemished long program of style and power - the most technically difficult attempted by any in the women's field - served to slingshot her past heavy favorite, American Michelle Kwan, and Russia's Irina Slutskaya.
A native of Kings Point who pursued her international skating career while a student at Great Neck North High School, Hughes first was nominated for the hall last year. She said then" "When I got the letter, I told everybody about it, I thought it was so cool. But I wasn't in [chosen], so this year I didn't tell anybody."
Though she won't return to competitive skating and is not interested in the show tour, she said she continues to "skate a little bit." She graduated from Yale University in May with a degree in American studies, with a concentration in politics. She lives in Manhattan.
"Being in skating, I put so much of myself into it, it started to feel very one-dimensional, and everything in my life revolved around skating," she said. "To be able to go and develop skills [in college] that I'll now be able to use to do other things gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Because I always knew I could skate."
Coached by Robin Wagner of Glen Cove, Hughes arrived at the 2002 Olympics without a national title or a gold or silver medal in previous international competition. But she had made her world championships debut at 13, finishing seventh in 1999, and steadily moved up to fifth, then third, at the annual worlds. Three months before the 2002 Olympics, she beat Kwan and Slutskaya at Skate Canada, giving a glimpse of her gold-medal possibilities.
Also named Thursday to the hall of fame, which is in Colorado Springs, Colo., were the husband-and-wife pairs team of Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, and veteran Ice Capades producer and choreographer Robert Turk.