WASHINGTON – Champion figure skater Michelle Kwan has found a new way to represent her country on the international stage.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced her appointment Thursday as the nation's first public diplomacy envoy — part of program to help improve the nation's image abroad.
"She is devoting her good name and her patriotism to help further our nation's public diplomacy efforts," said Rice.
Rice said Kwan's experiences as a world class figure skater, who won her first world title at 15, are "a deeply American story" admired by many.
"As an athlete, I've always been very proud to represent the United States," said Kwan, 26, who began competing internationally when she was 12. The California native's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong before she was born.
Since the 1990's Kwan has won practically every major figure skating title, except an Olympic gold medal. She was forced to withdraw from the 2006 winter games because of injuries.
Kwan, who is now studying political science and international affairs at the University of Denver, said she is looking forward to sharing America's story with others in the unpaid post.
The public diplomacy program is an effort by the United States to reach the world's young people, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes said.
Many of them "are being exposed to hate and propaganda directed against our country," said Hughes, who has worked to expand sports diplomacy programs. Kwan's efforts on behalf of the United States are part of the State Department's Education and Cultural Affairs program.