Sarah Hughes was US Junior Champion in 1998 and in 1999 placed second at the World Junior Championships and at the Junior Grand Prix Final, and placed seventh that year at the Senior World Championships. She continued to improve over the next few years, placing third at the US Championships and fifth at the World Championships in 2000, and won a bronze medal at the 2001 World Championships, after placing second in the US Nationals. She was not considered a favorite at the 2002 Winter Olympics, that role going to her teammate, Michelle Kwan. Kwan led after the short program, but she struggled a bit in the free skate, placing third, and when Hughes skated cleanly in the free program she moved up to win the free skate and the gold medal. Unlike most Olympic champions, Hughes did not turn professional and skate in ice shows, but returned for the 2002-03 season, where she was second at the US Championships and sixth in the Worlds. Hughes then stopped skating, though she never formally retired. She entered Yale in the fall of 2003, and graduated in 2009 with a degree in American studies, but never skated competitively after the 2003 season.