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14 Years After Her Last Olympic Medal, Figure Skater Michelle Kwan Is Working to Get Hillary Clinton in the White House


Michelle Kwan/Hillary For America

It’s been 10 years since Olympic medalist figure skater Michelle Kwan last skated competitively, but old habits die hard: she keeps a pair of roller skates under her desk at work, and hits the rink (and even the office floor) for a spin once in a while. Yep, Kwan has a desk job — at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.

“Every day, there’s been something exciting,” she tells PEOPLE of the gig, which she started in June 2015. “It’s [like] the buildup to the Olympics or the World Championships, where we’re all working towards that goal,” she adds of her coworkers. “We have each other’s back, we have a common goal, to get Hillary elected.”

Kwan with a group of Clinton supporters
Michelle Kwan/Hillary For America

She withdrew from the 2006 Olympics in Italy after a career of two Olympic medals and five World Championships. Kwan then switched gears and focused on completing her education, transferring from UCLA to the University of Denver, where she majored in political science and international relations. There, she was able to study without managing the balancing act of a professional skating career, too — which originally placed her on a 10-year track to getting her degree.

Though she wasn’t technically retired from the sport at that point (and still, never officially retired), she accepted a position as a public diplomacy envoy for the state department. The role gave her the opportunity to travel across the world, to countries like China, Argentina and Russia, on the department’s behalf. The position lasted until 2011, putting her in contact with political bigwigs like Vice President Joe Biden and Clinton herself, when she was serving as Secretary of State.

“It was like an internship that broadened my experience in international relations,” she says of the experience. “It just fell smoothly in terms of my interests and being in school.”

Kwan on the campaign trail
Michelle Kwan/Hillary For America

After getting her Bachelors degree from Denver, Kwan went on to obtain a Masters from Tufts, also in international relations. Inspired partly by her work as envoy, she then went on to work for the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs and as a senior advisor for the State Department, where she worked under Clinton once again. In early 2015, more and more of her former colleagues started to relocate to Brooklyn to work for Clinton — it didn’t take long for her to follow their lead.

Now 36, Kwan lives a very different life than the one she did 10-plus years ago — but has a job that her post-skating endeavors had been preparing her for. Her official title is Surrogate Outreach Coordinator, and her role involves reaching out to fellow famous faces — people like Meryl Streep, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lena Dunham and America Ferrera, all of whom spoke on Clinton’s behalf at the Democratic National Convention in July.

Yup this happened #Queen #MerylStreep #WeAreWithHer

A post shared by Michelle Kwan (@michellewkwan) on

It’s a fitting role for Kwan. After all, she knows a thing or two about being in the spotlight.

“It’s about knowing and understanding that people lead very busy lives,” she says. “I’ve worked closely across the board with publicists, managers, and I understand the relationship between them and their clients to figure out where to best utilize someone who is willing to help on the campaign trail.”

The Clinton campaign isn’t her first taste of life on the trail: In 2014, her husband, Clay Pell, ran for Governor of Rhode Island. Though he was ultimately unsuccessful in his run, it got Kwan doing on-the-ground campaign work.

“I did it all, in terms of doing events with him, making phone calls and knocking doors, doing the canvassing,” she shares.

And though Kwan was a singles skater, she says that working as a part of a team, like the Clinton campaign staff, is nothing new to her.

“It’s an individual sport, but I had such a diverse, incredible team around me,” Kwan says of years on ice, naming choreographers, coaches and costume designers as just a few examples of ‘teammates.’

In the last few weeks of the campaign, Kwan is trying to savor every moment, from days in the Brooklyn office to trips to meet with voters from all over the U.S. in states such as New Hampshire, Nevada and Colorado. Though she originally intended to keep a diary, she’s instead documenting the last 100 days of the campaign on Instagram.

Doh!! Just seeing this picture in a newspaper 🙄 thanks @vivekvis87

A post shared by Michelle Kwan (@michellewkwan) on

As for what comes after Nov. 8, that’s all still up in the air. And much like she did when she was preparing for the Olympics, Kwan isn’t looking past that podium — or in this case, the Oval Office.

“You can’t even think about it,” she says. “As an Olympian, that’s mentality that helps me here. You hear this from all the athletes, where they’re like, ‘It’s tunnel vision,’ and it’s like, ‘This is my goal, and I hope to do my best.’ It’s a one-track mind. It is a moving target, but that’s my target.”

One thing she is certain of post-election? That she won’t be running for office herself.

“No,” she insists. “This is it!”