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Hughes: ‘Michelle has been very gracious’

In an exclusive interview, “Today” host Katie Couric talks to rising skating star Emily Hughes after hearing she would compete at the Winter Games.
/ Source: TODAY

With Michelle Kwan out of the games, 17-year-old Emily Hughes now has a chance to make her Olympic dreams come true. She is the younger sister of the last Olympic champion, Sarah Hughes, who won gold at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. “Today” host Katie Couric spoke to Hughes from Torino after she heard the news.

Katie Couric: I can only imagine the kind of whirlwind day you've had. Has it been absolutely crazy?

Emily Hughes: It has been a little crazy. It's just overjoying, I'm just so excited.

Couric: Tell me, Emily, how you found out the news? Because I understand you and your family were out eating sushi?

Hughes: Yes, actually we were at dinner last night eating Japanese food, and my dad got a call and from the expression on his face I sort of knew it was like, big news. And we weren't allowed to tell anyone so it was a little hard. We had to sort of leave right away. But it's just been so exciting, I can't wait to be a part of the Olympics.

Couric: What was your immediate reaction though, Emily, be honest. Were you thrilled? Were you terrified? Was it some kind of combination of the two?

Hughes: When I found out that I was going to be going to Torino, I was just so excited, I'm still excited. We're in a blizzard right now and I can't really go anywhere, but it's just been an amazing experience so far.

Couric: I know that the snow may keep you put for a while. When are you all planning to come to Torino?

Hughes: Probably within the next few days we'll be there. But I'll definitely be there before February 21st.

Couric: That's when the competition begins. Let's talk about Michelle Kwan for a moment, if we could Emily. Obviously the joy you're experiencing is pretty much the antithesis of what Michelle is going through right now. She said some very complimentary things about you during her press conference. I wanted to give you an opportunity to say something about Michelle because obviously, she's been such an important figure in your sport for so long.

Hughes: Michelle has been very gracious toward me, and I respect her both on and off the ice. She has just been a legend in figure skating. I hope she recovers quickly.

Couric: I know you've been getting ready for the world championships, which are next month. So you've been skating, I'm assuming, every day in preparation for that. How do you feel about your skating, where you are right now as you go into the Olympic Games?

Hughes: Well, I feel pretty good about my skating. As you said, I was training for worlds — from nationals to worlds we planned on changing a few things, trying to get a higher level, maybe beat my personal best. Now I get to go to the Olympics and do my program there, so I'm really excited.

Couric: Tell me who's coming from your family, Emily. Is the whole Hughes gang going to be heading to Torino?

Hughes: The whole Hughes gang is coming, yes. They have been such a great support system for me. Sarah has told me just to have fun, and you know she's been such an influential figure in my skating and she's a role model for me, not only as my sister. But I'm just really looking forward to them being there, supporting me.

Couric: Your parents are so great and they were so much fun in Salt Lake City, and they got such a kick out of the whole experience. Are they pinching themselves that they get to do it again? 

Hughes: Oh they are looking forward to everything. I just can't wait to be there.

Couric: I'm sure Sarah's probably given you some other sisterly advice. Is there anything she's said to you or words of wisdom that you can share with us?

Hughes: Yeah, you know she said just to have fun with everything because the Olympics only happen once in your life, maybe twice. So I’m just looking forward to everything.

Couric: Well, Emily, congratulations on making the Olympic team, and we look forward to seeing you and your family when you get to Torino. Thanks so much for talking to us.

Hughes: Thank you. Look forward to seeing you, too. Thank you.