updated 06/07/2009 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 06/07/2009 AT 5:15 PM ET
Between Michelle Kwan and Sarah Hughes, they ve won enough ice-skating medals to fill a museum. But in recent years, the skaters have set their sights on a different goal: getting a college diploma.
On Saturday, Kwan earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies with a minor in political science from the University of Denver. “It feels great,” the five-time world champion told PEOPLE about being a college grad. “I’ve always known you can only skate for so many years and then you have to rely on your education to carry you through life.”
And the 28-year-old, who earned a silver at the 1998 Olympics and bronze in 2002, was recently admitted to the international affairs program at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, where she expects to continue her work as an envoy for the state department. “It was difficult to travel and go to school, but it was so enjoyable visiting other countries,” she said.
But Kwan also told PEOPLE in April that she’s training for a possible comeback to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team competing in Vancouver in 2010. “I’m going to get in good shape and make my decision from there,” Kwan said.
Life After the Ivy League
Meanwhile, on May 25, Hughes collected a bachelor’s degree in American studies with a concentration in U.S. politics and communities from Yale University. The 24-year-old also recently returned to the ice after taking a 2 ½-year break from skating to complete her studies at the Ivy League school.
The 2002 Olympic champ has no plans to make a competitive return at this time but intends to return to skating in shows and exhibitions. “I want to do some skating and then go to law school in three years,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m enjoying it and I’m going to see where it takes me.”
Hughes is also thinking of writing a motivational book and continuing charity work in the New York area. But next February, she expects to be in Vancouver for the winter games – as a spectator – and is excited that old rivals Kwan and Sasha Cohen are waging comebacks. “Those girls aren’t fooling around,” she says. “It’s pretty exciting and I want to see what happens.”