Opinions are good but opinions backed up with facts are even better. Please don't let this theard turn into another my skater vs. your skater bashing fest. Now without further ado...
I boldly predict that Michelle will stay eligible AT LEAST untill 2006. Why? Well there are several factors and after careful analysis and review of the facts here is my case FOR Michelle...in no particular order
1) She loves to Compete:
Michelle has gone on the record many, many times thoughout her career stateing that she "loves to compete". It seems like every interview, TV apperence, Fluff piece, article, ect related to Michelle has a quote from her saying she "loves to Compete" that she "loves to nervous feeling before a competition" and that to her it is "all about the competition". Michelle thrivies on competition. She skates her best when she conviences her self that she is not the favorite, that pushes her to skate better. Remember this is the same girl who at said at the '98 nagano LP press conference "you guys might see me untill 2006"
2) Current State of Professional Skating
Why turn pro?? There are hardly any professional competitions held besides Ice Wars. For a person that "loves to compete" that picture just won't do. Not only that but really what is the advantage of turning pro now. Why won't anyone say the obvious...For all intents and purposes Michelle is ALREADY professional. ($4million a year last I checked, from skating prize money, TV Apperence fees, various endorsements, ect) At this point there is no real financial incentive for Michelle to give up her olympic eligibility. She already makes her living by skating. Look folks the days of 'I can't make money in skating untill I win a olympic gold medal are over'. Skating has changes since the days of Hamil and Fleming...just a sign of the post whack heard around the world times. This is not limited to MIchelle but basicly all your elite skaters nowadays are not true amatures. Personally I don't have a problem with skaters making money because skating is such an expensive sport compared to other amature sports. Also many times skating requires a huge financial sacrafice for skaters' families. For anyone to attack Kwan for making money is just fool hardy. Because all the skaters are trying to make money.
3) Overwhemlingly Postive Post olympic season
After 1998 Michelle made it clear she would continue untill 2002. But at the start of last season we really didn't know what Michelle was gonna do. She didn't know either. She found Marosov and Scott Williams and took charge of her own skating. The results speak for themselves. With increased speed and sharper spins and footwork Michelle proved her worth. Look at her ending pose at 2003 worlds...does that look like someone who wants to give it all up?? No. She skates on her own terms now. The success of this past season will no doubt give her the motavation and will to continue saying eligible at least untill 2006(beyond? see #4).
4) Age...a non issue
23 is not old!! But to drive home that point let me use Maria Bute. as the model. Maria won her world title at the age 26(7 triple LP), Maria did what is probaly her most demanding technical lp at '00 NHK at the age of 28. Indeed Maria competed at SLC Olympics 4 months shy of her (long collective gasp) 30th birthday. By comparison Michelle will be only 25 by the time Turnino comes around. Michelle will be the same age in Turin that Maria was at Nagano. Elena S. also had a resergent season with the aid of 3-3 combinations and and she is 23. If Michelle keeps up her off-ice training, avoids injury, and stays "lean and mean" there is no reason she won't be competitive. I will admit however that with age condidtioning and competition scheduling will be more and more important.
5) Nothing left to prove
Michelle is that rare athlete that truly has nothing left to prove to anyone. Michelle has all the titles(except well you know), all the wonderful performances, all the love (more or less depends on which figure skating board you are on), all the media attention, and star power. Even people who don't really follow figure skating know her. When she skates at a competition everyone is rivitied to their seats becaus everyone wants to know will she fall on her behind or get a string of 6.0s. Michelle has grown up competing and has been in the spotlight since the age of 13 if not yonger. So really she doesn't know anything else, skating is her life. May she continue to walk though fields of gold...sorry for pun.