Source AP ©

Michelle Kwan builds bridges to Russia

U.S. figure skating champion Michelle Kwan thinks that Russians and Americans have common values and need to have a better understanding of one another's cultures.

The five-time world champion, who sat out last season because of hip surgery, returned to Moscow as part of a diplomatic mission with the U.S. State Department to build bridges to Russia - where ties with the United States have turned chilly in recent months.

"People do not have a complete understanding of each other and it's important to have this open dialogue," Kwan said during a visit to a Moscow orphanage, where she spoke to children and teachers and answered questions.

"Yes, there are differences (but) we can see that there are also common values that we share like respecting elders, respecting your parents, education, health," she said.

Kwan reminded the children that hard work and persistence is a large part of the success of athletes like herself or Washington Capitals' hockey star Alex Ovechkin or former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova - both Russian natives.

"Keep on working hard and your dreams - such a great thing - will come true," Kwan said "A lot of my dreams came true."

Before coming to Moscow, Kwan visited the poor southern rural region of Kalmykia and took part in a symposium on U.S.-Russian relations and sport competition in the Volga river city of Volgograd.

Kwan's first trip as a State Department envoy was to China in January.