On Wednesday, March 29th, retired World Champion figure skater Michelle Kwan‘s husband of four years, Clay Pell, announced the end of the couple’s four-year marriage. They met in DC in April 2011, when Pell was working as a White House staffer, and Kwan at the US State Department.
Pell, 35, a politician and former Coast Guard member who recently ran for Governor of Rhode Island, released a statement to the Providence Journal: “It is with deep regret that I share that Michelle and my marriage is coming to an end. This is a sad and difficult turn of events for our family. I love Michelle, and wish her the very best as her life takes her in a new direction.”
Kwan, 36, and Pell were married on Saturday, January 19, 2013 in Providence, Rhode Island. The couple married at First Unitarian Church, then followed witha reception at The Hope Club. The groom wore his military uniform for the ceremony, while Kwan wore an ivory strapless Vera Wang gown in silk organza with lace appliques. Wang was a natural choice, as she and Kwan had collaborated on her on-ice costumes dozens of times in her career. “It’s the ongoing saga of our friendship,” Wang told People, while describing the inspiration behind Kwan’s gown: “[The dress] had to have a certain dignity and a certain classicism [because of the couple’s politically-centred lives], and I think it was a lot about a new way of looking at tradition.”
1988 Olympic men’s figure skating champ Brian Boitano spoke at the reception, telling People Magazine he was emotional at the thought of someone he viewed as a little sister getting married. For their first dance as husband and wife, Pell and Kwan danced to The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun.”
The wedding was full of life, as the then-newlyweds described to People. “The whole energy came from family and friends,” said Kwan. “People were crying. There were so many tears shed, especially from me!”
Added Pell, “As she was walking into the church, I could feel her. I could feel this energy, this sense of grace and movement and comfort to me the whole time. This contentedness, whether we were holding hands, or hugging, or kissing – she has such warmth for me and I just felt this fire the whole day, and I still do.”
Kwan effectively retired from figure skating in 2006 and turned her focus to her studies, having earned five World Championships, Olympic silver (1998 Nagano) and bronze medals (2002 Salt Lake City). In the recent run up to the 2016 election, she served as a surrogate outreach coordinator for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.