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Tara Lipinski

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Tara Lipinski
Caucasian woman in her late 30s with long and straight blonde hair, wearing a white jacket and black headset
Lipinski at the 2014 Sochi Olympics
Personal information
BornTara Kristen Lipinski
(1982-06-10) June 10, 1982 (age 40)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Todd Kapostasy
(m. 2017)
Former coachRichard Callaghan
Jeff DiGregorio
Former choreographerSandra Bezic
Former training locationsDetroit, Michigan
Newark, Delaware
Retired1998 amateur, 2002 pro
Medal record
Figure skating: Ladies' singles
Representing the  United States
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1998 Nagano Ladies' singles
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1997 Lausanne Ladies' singles
Grand Prix Final
Gold medal – first place 1996–1997 Hamilton Ladies' singles
Gold medal – first place 1997–1998 Munich Ladies' singles

Tara Kristen Lipinski (born June 10, 1982) is an American former competitive figure skater, actress, sports commentator and documentary film producer. A former competitor in women's singles, she is the 1998 Olympic champion, the 1997 World champion, a two-time Champions Series Final champion (1997–1998) and the 1997 U.S. national champion. Until 2019, she was the youngest single skater to win a U.S. Nationals and the youngest to become an Olympic and World champion in figure skating history. She is the first woman to complete a triple loop-triple loop jump combination, her signature jump element, in competition. Starting in 1997, Lipinski had a rivalry with fellow skater Michelle Kwan, which was played up by the American press, and culminated when Lipinski won the gold medal at the 1998 Olympics.

Lipinski retired from competitive figure skating in 1998. She won every competition she entered during her professional career and was the youngest skater to win the World Professional Figure Skating Championships. She performed in live shows before retiring from figure skating in 2002. Lipinski, along with sports commentator Terry Gannon and fellow figure skater and good friend Johnny Weir, became NBC's primary figure skating commentators in 2014.

Early life[edit]

Tara Kristen Lipinski was born on June 10, 1982, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[1] to Patricia (née Brozyniak) and oil executive and lawyer Jack Lipinski.[2] She spent her earliest years in Sewell, New Jersey.[3] All four of her grandparents were from Poland.[2]

When Lipinski was two, while watching the 1984 Summer Olympics, she stood on a Tupperware bowl and pretended to be a gold medalist. At the age of three, she began roller skating and eventually became a national champion in her group when she was nine years old.[3] She began figure skating in the same year, transferring her skills to the ice rink. She later switched exclusively to figure skating and took lessons at the University of Delaware.[4] In 1991, Lipinski's father received a job promotion, so the family moved to Sugar Land, Texas, near Houston. She trained on a public rink at the Houston Galleria. Two years later, Lipinski and her mother returned to Delaware to resume her training there with coach Jeff DiGregorio, who had worked with Lipinski, on and off, for three years before their move to Texas,while her father stayed in Texas to support their family.[4][5] In 1995, Lipinski and her mother transferred to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, to train with coach Richard Callaghan at the Detroit Skating Club.[4][3][6]

Competitive careerin[edit]

Early years[edit]

In 1994, Lipinski earned a silver medal in the novice women's division at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.[5] When she was 12, she became the youngest athlete to win a gold medal at the 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival.[7] She then took first place in the Blue Swords in Chemnitz, Germany, her first international competition, in November, after which the media began to notice her.[4] As a junior skater, she came in fourth place at the 1995 World Junior Championships and came in second place at the 1995 U.S. Championships.[3][5] In late 1995, she placed fifth at the 1996 World Junior Championships, which marked the end of the relationship between DiGregorio and the Lipinskis.[5]

After a series of interviews conducted by Lipinski and her mother and sample lessons given to Lipinski by prospective figure skating coaches from around the country, they hired Richard Callaghan.[8] In January 1996, Lipinski won a bronze medal as a senior-level skater at the 1996 U.S. Championships.[3][5] She closed out the 1995–1996 season and gained international attention by qualifying for the 1996 World Championships.[9] She placed 22nd after the short program, but her free skating program, which included seven triple jumps, brought her up to 15th place.[8][10]

1996–97 season[edit]

Lipinski and Callaghan spent the next year making her appear more mature; she enrolled in ballet classes and hired choreographer Sandra Bezic to, as sports reporter E.M. Swift reported, "create programs for Lipinski that expressed delight yet looked adult".[8] In late 1996, she added the triple loop-triple loop jump combination, which became her signature jump element and added technical difficulty to her programs. She was the first woman to complete the jump combination in competition.[4][11] Lipinski competed in the ISU Champions Series (later renamed the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating) during the 1996–1997 season; she finished in second place at Skate Canada, third at Trophée Lalique, and second at the 1996 Nations Cup.[1] She won the gold medal at the Champion Series Final and defeated Michelle Kwan by completing more successful jumps in her short and free programs.[12]

Michelle Kwan performing her signature spiral at the 2002 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Lipinski's rival Michelle Kwan

In February 1997, at the age of 14, Lipinski became the youngest skater to win a U.S. Championships title. She broke the record set by Sonya Klopfer, who was 15 when she won U.S. Nationals in 1951.[8][a] She defeated Kwan, the reigning 1996 U.S. champion, who won the short program. Kwan fell twice and landed only four out of seven of her planned triple jumps during her free skating program, leaving the door open for Lipinski's victory.[8][12][14] She was the last skater to perform in the competition's free skating segment; she skated cleanly with seven triple jumps, including her signature triple loop-triple loop jump combination, and came in first place.[12] According to Swift, the 1997 U.S. Nationals was the start of the Kwan-Lipinski rivalry.[8]

A month later, Lipinski won the 1997 World Championships and became the youngest female skater to win the World Championships. She was a month younger than the previous record holder, Sonja Henie from Norway, when Henie won the first of ten World Championships in 1927.[15][b] Lipinski completed seven triple jumps, as she had done at the U.S. Nationals and the Champion Series Final, and finished in first place after the short program.[16] She also completed two double Axels, but one rival coach said that "you couldn't have put a piece of paper under them".[17] Her presentation marks were mostly 5.7s or 5.8s[c] and similar to her technical marks. Three out of four judges gave her higher presentation marks than technical marks.[16]

Reporter Jere Longman of The New York Times called Lipinski's free skate "a light, airy performance" and said she was "composed and nearly flawless".[15] Lipinski opened with a double Axel and included a triple flip jump and her triple loop-triple loop jump combination.[15] She received 5.8s and 5.9s in her technical marks and a 5.7 and 5.8 for presentation. The final results after the free skate were close, and the judges were unable to declare a clear winner of the free skate. Lipinski, Kwan—who was fourth after the short program—and Russian skater Irina Slutskaya all received first-place votes. Kwan's free skate came in first place because she had more first- and second-place votes, and Lipinski came in first place overall because she received more second-place votes in the free skate than Slutskaya.[17] If two more judges had placed Slutskaya before Lipinski after the free skate, Kwan would have won the competition instead of coming in second place. The U.S. had not finished first and second at the Worlds since 1992, when Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold medal and Nancy Kerrigan won the silver medal.[15]

1997–98 season[edit]

Pre-Olympic season[edit]

Between seasons, Lipinski grew two inches and turned 15 years old.[18] She went into the 1997–1998 season by continuing to add more sophistication to her programs by taking daily dance classes from Russian ballet teacher Marina Sheffer.[19][20] She selected film scores for both her short program and free skating, both of which were choreographed by Sandra Bezic.[20][21] According to Kestnbaum, the American press played up "the Kwan-Lipinski rivalry for all it was worth".[21]

At the 1997 Skate America, Kwan defeated Lipinski for the first time in three competitions and won the gold medal. Lipinski came in second place after Kwan in both her short program and free skating segment of the competition and took second place overall.[21] Despite performing more difficult jumps than Kwan during her short program, Lipinski consistently received lower required technical marks.[21] During her free skate, she fell while performing a triple Lutz jump despite it being an otherwise technically difficult and strong performance.[22] According to Kestnbaum, Callaghan "expressed bewilderment in why the judges had so marked down the reigning World champion, who by virtue of that position might otherwise have been expected to receive the benefit of any doubt".[21] Lipinski came in second place at Trophée Lalique, behind French skater Laetitia Hubert, who had not won any major competitions since the 1992 World Junior Championships and who came in eleventh place at her previous competition.[21][23]

Coming into the 1997-98 Champion Series Final, Lipinski was tied for fourth place in the Series standings with Russia’s Maria Butyrskaya.[18] She won the competition, skating her first clean program of the season.[24] Kwan, although she was eligible, withdrew from the Finals due to injuries.[18] Mike Penner, a writer from the L.A. Times, reported that both Lipinski and Callaghan were concerned about what they considered unfair treatment by the judges at the Champion Series that season, who gave her lower technical marks than the previous season, as low as 5.3, for an incorrectly performed Lutz. Callaghan told Penner that the judges told him that Lipinski regularly performed her Lutz jumps from the inside edge of her blade instead of from the correct outside edge, something skaters called the "flutz".[18][d] Lipinski and Callaghan disputed the judges' marks for her jumps, stating that she had performed them the same way the previous season, when she won both the Worlds and U.S. Nationals.[18] Lipinski's lower marks were subject of several articles in major U.S. newspapers.[25] According to reporter Nancy Armour of the Spokesman Review, Lipinski skated her season's best at the Finals with a well-executed triple Lutz.[23]

Lipinski came in second at the 1998 U.S. Figure Skating Championships; Kwan came in first place. In her short program Lipinski fell on a triple flip attempt, which she called "the lowest point" of her career.[4][26] She recovered enough from her short program to climb from fourth place to second overall. She would have had to win the free skate and Kwan would have had to come in third place or lower for Lipinski to win the championship.[26] Lipinski performed her free skating program with seven triple jumps, including her trademark triple loop-triple loop and a difficult triple toe loop-half loop-triple Salchow jump combination. The judges awarded her all 5.8s and 5.9s, except for a pair of 5.7s for presentation.[27][e]

1998 Winter Olympics[edit]

U.S. Figure Skating chose Kwan, Lipinski, and Nicole Bobek, who came in third place at Nationals, to send to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.[26] Lipinski and Kwan entered the Olympics as co-favorites to win the gold medal.[19]

Kwan easily won the short program at the Olympics; eight of the nine judges put her in first place. Lipinski came in second place.[20][29] Swift called Lipinski's performance of her short program, which was technically more difficult than Kwan's, "luminous–fast and light and joyful".[20] Lipinski's free skating program, with her triple loop-triple loop jump combination and seven triple jumps total, was the most technically difficult program in Olympic history up to that time. She received 5.8s and 5.9s in presentation marks. Kwan received all 5.9s in presentation marks, but she received lower technical marks than Lipinski.[29] Kwan performed her free skate almost perfectly, with one small error during one of her jumps.[29] According to Washington Post reporter Amy Shipley, Kwan "skated brilliantly and Lipinski skated better".[29] Swift noted that Kwan's performance of her free skate "would have been enough to win at any other Olympics",[20] but the judges, by awarding her with five 5.7s in her technical marks, left room for Lipinski to move ahead.[20] Swift said that Lipinski "had a blast" skating her free skating program and "soared and spun with abandon, filling the [rink] with her joy".[20] Like Kwan, she completed seven triple jumps,[30] but "the difference was her trademark triple loop-triple loop combination and a wonderful closing triple toe-half loop-triple Salchow [combination]".[20] Lipinski's jumps were not as big as Kwan's and her jump take-offs were not ideal, but her landings were clean and increased in speed as she came out of them.[31] Her spins were faster than Kwan's, but they were not as difficult and their positions were weaker.[32] Kestnbaum also states, "Nor did [Lipinski's] program demonstrate transitional steps as complex, stroking quality as nuanced, or body carriage and line as controlled and elegant".[33] Lipinski was awarded 5.8s and 5.9s for her technical and presentation marks, and earned six out of nine first-place marks from the judges, winning the gold medal because the free skate was weighted more heavily than the short program.[30][34]

Lipinski was the youngest Olympic gold medalist in figure skating history.[29] She was the sixth American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skaing.[3][5][30] Kwan finished in second place, and Chinese skater Lu Chen was the surprise bronze medal winner.[29] Lipinski was two months younger than Sonja Henie when she came in first place at the Olympics in 1928, breaking a record that had stood for 70 years.[34][35] Single skaters from the same country had not won gold and silver medals at the Olympics since Americans Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss did it in 1956.[34]

Professional career[edit]

Caucasian young woman, in her late teens, with hair in bun, and bright red lipstick, smiling and looking upwards and to the left
Lipinski in December 1998

In March 1998, Lipinski announced her decision to withdraw from the 1998 World Championships, citing a serious glandular infection that required her to have two molars extracted, constant fatigue, and possible mononucleosis.[36] In April, Lipinski announced her intention to turn professional in an interview on the Today Show, thus ending her eligibility to compete in the Olympics again.[37][38] She cited a desire to end her family's separation caused by her skating career and to focus on other goals such as attending college in another two years. According to The New York Times, her decision "sent tremors through the Olympic figure skating community".[37] Figure skater Scott Hamilton revealed in his book Landing It : My Life On and Off the Ice that Lipinski had taken "an enormous amount of heat" for turning professional. He reported that USA Today had criticized her decision, stating that she had taken the easy way out and compared it to joining the circus.[39] Lori Shontz of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believed that Lipinski was treated unfairly by the figure skating establishment after her decision to leave competitive skating.[40]

In 1998, due to many endorsements and book deals, Lipinski's net worth was perhaps $12 million.[38] She signed an exclusive deal with CBS to do some acting and to perform in skating shows and non-sanctioned competitions.[41] After the Olympics, Lipinski toured with Champions on Ice, visiting 90 U.S. cities.[4] In August 1998, Lipinski ended her association with Champions on Ice, which she had performed with since 1995, and joined the cast of Stars on Ice in order to expand artistically and to participate in the company's group numbers.[38] She suffered from sore hips and an injured hip during rehearsals.[41] In the same year, Lipinski wrote two books, Totally Tara - An Olympic Journey and Tara Lipinski: Triumph on Ice.[42]

In 1999, Lipinski performed with Stars on Ice for a second season and on the ISU-sanctioned Grand Slam of Figure Skating, became a spokeswoman for Boys and Girls Clubs of America and an anti-drug advocate, appeared on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, and acted in television shows for the Fox Family Network and Nickelodeon.[43] She also became the youngest skater to win the World Professional Figure Skating Championships, completing a triple flip, a triple toe loop, and a triple Salchow jump in her free skating program. Her marks consisted of two 10s, eleven 9.9s, and one 9.8; she came in first by more than one point over Denise Biellmann, who came in second place.[44]

Lipinski had hip surgery in 2000 at the age of 18, which she believed saved her career. Her injury, a torn labrum in her hip, had been misdiagnosed for four or five years and  had caused her a great deal of joint pain. She became a spokesperson to increase awareness about deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which the National Institutes of Health called "a dangerous potential side effect of surgery".[45] The injury, which might have occurred before the 1998 Winter Olympics, became progressively worse until she was unable to tour. The surgery, which usually lasted 45 minutes, took 3.5 hours to complete because she was developing arthritis and because a cartilage had grown over the bone. She was back on the ice seven days later for light practice with Stars on Ice. She was able to return to touring but had to withdraw from the 2000 World Professional Championships.[46] In 2002, Lipinski toured 61 U.S. cities with Stars on Ice, then retired from skating.[47][48]

Skating technique[edit]

Lipinski's skating influences were Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, and Christopher Bowman.[49] Her skating style was often compared to Michelle Kwan's. Jere Longman of The New York Times called Lipinski "the consistent Energizer bunny of a jumper", but called Kwan "the more sophisticated, complete artist".[19] Frank Carroll, who coached Kwan, called Lipinski's style "wonderful" and said that she was "turning easy, jumping easy".[19] Writer Ellyn Kestnbaum states that compared to Kwan's "more carefully choreographed expressions of joy",[33] Lipinski projected "unselfconsious and spontaneous joy in her own movement that projected a greater air of confidence and command of the space".[33]

Kestnbaum discusses Lipinski's skating technique in her book Culture on Ice: Figure Skating and Cultural Meaning to illustrate women's and girls' influence on figure skating. Kestnbaum states, "Cynics and purists who valued the artistic possibilities of the sport or the fine points of skating technique complained that the judges who awarded Lipinski her gold medals were just counting the jumps and not paying attention to the quality of those jumps, much less to the quality of the rest of her skating".[50] Kestnbaum uses Lipinski as an example of how teenagers, especially teenage girls, dominated the sport, and how many people in the press criticized the sport, and sometimes even Lipinski herself, for encouraging it. Her jumps, which Kestnbaum calls "small and in some cases technically flawed",[21] were debated in the press in 1997 and 1998.[21] Kestnbaum says that Lipinski's early programs, choreographed by Sandra Bezik, emphasized her youth and femininity, but by the 1998 Olympics, they emphasized "greater polish or 'maturity' in her presentation skills".[33]

Jere Longman of The New York Times said that Lipinski "has propelled the sport forward with the difficulty of her jumps".[19] E. M. Swift of Sports Illustrated said that although Lipinski's jumps were not big, her spins were "so fast that she seems to dematerialize, like Tinkerbell, in the midst of her jumps".[8] In March 1997, Swift stated that Lipinski had "musicality and poise that are far beyond her years",[17] and although he admitted that she often suffered from nerves, she was "the complete skating package, if a diminutive one, and a pleasure to watch".[17] In 2018, U.S. Figure Skating president Sam Auxier credited Lipinski for increasing the level of complexity of Olympic skating.[4]

Broadcasting career[edit]

Lipinski spent a few years traveling and working "here and there" after her retirement from figure skating. She did some acting, but decided, as she told Cosmopolitan Magazine, that it "just wasn't my thing".[4] In 2009, longing for the high she had felt as a figure skater,[f] she contacted U.S. Figure Skating's streaming service Ice Network and offered to work as a commentator for competitions.[4] She began commentating for Universal Sports in 2010 and transitioned to NBC and NBC Sports in 2011, where she covered almost every international figure skating competition broadcast by the network. For competitions not broadcast live, she would call figure skating from studios in the U.S. instead of the competition venue. She also became a special correspondent for Extra and covered skating for WDIV in Detroit and WHDH in Boston.[48][52]

Johnny Weir at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards
Lipinski's friend and NBC co-commentator Johnny Weir

Lipinski teamed with sports commentator Terry Gannon and fellow figure skater and good friend Johnny Weir at the Sochi Olympics as the network's second team of figure skating commentators for their daily live broadcasts in September 2014.[53][54][55] At first Lipinski worked with Gannon during the women's events, and Weir worked with Gannon during the men's events.[54] After realizing they worked well together and recognizing what reporter Tom Weir called their "instant chemistry",[55] they pitched the idea of the three working together to NBC; Lipinski stated that it "was sort of meant to be".[51] The trio generated the 10 best weekday daytime audiences in NBC's history.[55] According to Tom Weir, "they had instant comedic harmony, with their casual chatter and humorous asides playing amazingly well against the staunch and exacting backdrop of figure skating".[55] In September 2014, Lipinski, Weir, and Gannon were promoted to NBC's primary figure skating commentators, replacing Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic, and Tom Hammond.[53][56] Lipinski, along with Weir and Gannon, was an analyst at the 2018 Winter Olympics.[57] She stated that she had worked for ten years to realize her dream of commentating during prime time during the Olympics.[58] Lipinski, Weir, and Gannon hosted the closing ceremonies in Pyeongchang, as well as for the 2020 Summer Olympics and for the 2022 Winter Olympics.[58][59] They covered the latter remotely from the NBC studies in Stamford, Conneticut, where they had covered events for many years, due to the rise of COVID-19 cases internationally and China's strict COVID-19 protocols, which NBC stated made it "too challenging" to send broadcast teams to Bejing in person.[60]

Lipinski and Weir were hired by NBC's Access Hollywood in 2014 to analyze fashion during the red carpet at the Oscars.[61] She served as a social media, lifestyle, and fashion correspondent"[42] for NBC Sports, including, with Weir, the Beverly Hills Dog Show in 2017,[62] the National Dog Show since 2015,[42] the Kentucky Derby in 2014–2018, and pre-game coverage for the Super Bowl in 2015 and 2017.[42][63] They were called culture correspondents by People Magazine for the 2016 Summer Olympics.[64][65]

According to the Houston Chronicle, Lipinski approached broadcasting "with passion, vigor and an arduous work ethic similar to what she brought to the ice".[48] She spent hundreds of hours researching skaters.[48] Her broadcasting influences were Peggy Fleming, Dick Button, and Scott Hamilton; she listened to tapes of Hamilton's past broadcasts to learn how to commentate.[51][56] She called her broadcasting career her "second dream".[51] In 2018, she told Entertainment Tonight, "I feel extremely grateful that Johnny and I have found this spot in our world, and it gives us opportunities outside of skating".[57] The same year, The Washington Post reported that viewers' response to Lipinski and Weir were mixed; some considered them "Olympic darlings–a one-stop shop for knowledge, sass and brass", while others found them "mean, obnoxious, and distracting".[58] Scott Hamilton, who was replaced at NBC by Lipinski, Weir, and Gannon, called them a "phenomenon" and "such a breath of fresh air".[56] GQ called their commentating style "a Gladwell-ian ability to demystify figure skating for the uninitiated and an extreme candor for which they've caught some heat".[54]

Cosmopolitan considered Lipinski and Weir's commentating style honest and colorful, and said that they used bantering and avoided what the magazine called "fluffy, polished performances".[4] They tried to present figure skating in an accessible way to their viewers, keeping the more technical aspects of the sport to a minimum but emphasizing, its "gossipy nuances".[55] Sports writer and media critic Bill Goodykoontz called their enthusiasm for figure skating their "calling card".[66] Dick Button told Olympic reporters he thought Lipinski and Weir were "excellent", but that Lipinski "might talk a little too much", although Tom Weir stated that when skaters were "elegant and error-free", both Lipinski and Weir had "the good sense to stay silent".[55] Goodykoontz pointed out that Lipinski and Weir were uncharacteristically quiet[66] while calling the short program of Kamila Valieva from the Russian Olympic Committee, who was allowed to compete despite failing a drug test prior to the 2022 Olympics. They chose to simply announce Valieva's jumps and to express their opinions that she should not have been allowed to compete afterwards instead.[66]

In 2018 and 2019, Lipinski and Weir hosted and appeared in a few shows on Food Network, including two seasons of Wedding Cake Challenge.[67][68] In 2022, Lipinski co-hosted Wedding Talk with event planner José Rolón and wedding designer Jove Meyer, which aired on Chicken Soup for the Soul Studios.[69] In the same year, Lipinski and her husband, Todd Kapostasy, a sports producer and documentary director, co-produced Meddling: The Olympic Skating Scandal That Shocked the World, a four-part documentary series focusing on the 2002 skating controversy at the Salt Lake City Olympics, which aired on the NBC streaming service Peacock in January 2022.[70][71] Lipinski, who called the series "a deep and responsible look at what happened",[72] said that she and Kapostasy chose to create the series because it had been the 20th anniversary of the scandal and there had been no comprehensive look at what happened.[73] They travelled to Russia, France, and Canada to interview people involved in the scandal, including Marie-Reine Le Gougne, the French judge at its center, who had not spoken to anyone from the American media for 20 years.[74] Forbes stated that Meddling "uniquely takes a deep dive" into the scandal and "succeeds in revealing a very corrupt system in regards to skating judges at the time".[74]

Personal life[edit]

In June 2017, after two years of dating, Lipinski married sports producer Todd Kapostasy. They met in May 2015, at the Sports Emmys, when Lipinski presented Kapostasy an award. Johnny Weir was a bridesman and Scott Hamilton was a guest.[4]

Lipinski is Catholic; she has had a devotion to Saint Therese of Lisieux since 1994. Lipinski credited St. Therese for her Olympic win in 1998 and the recovery from her hip surgery in 2000. During the Olympics, she wore a necklace with a good-luck charm, given to her by her uncle, with the words, "Short, but good",[4] as well as a medal of St. Therese, given to her by Rev. Vince Kolo, a Catholic priest from Pittsburgh. She thanked St. Therese at the kiss and cry after her short program in Nagano, and her coach held a small statue of St. Therese during her free skate. Lipinski would also place a statue of the saint on the boards before every competition. A few months after the Nagano Olympics, she donated her medal and costume to an exhibit. Ann Rogers-Melnick of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in 2001 that Lipinski had established a playroom in St. Therese's honor in the children's ward in a Detroit hospital. Lipinski told Rogers-Melnick that roses, a symbol of St. Therese, had "always appeared at her best and worst moments".[75]

About her friendship with Weir, Lipinski stated that although their skating careers had not occurred during the same time periods and, as a result, they did not know each other well when they began to work together at the Sochi Olympics, they bonded "on air and off air". She also said, "It's like a long-lost soul mate that I met late in life. I can't imagine my life without him".[54] Both Lipinski and Weir told GQ that they would bring dozens of suitcases to the competitions they announced and would do their best to wear matching clothes and never the same outfit twice. By the 2018 Olympics, they brought every item of clothing they owned and would "sort it out" at the event. They also reported that they assisted fellow broadcaster Terry Gannon with his on-air fashion choices.[54]

In September 2020, in order to help raise awareness of the condition, Lipinski made public her diagnosis of endometriosis after having laparoscopic surgery to treat it. Although her symptoms were not severe, the intermittent pain she experienced worsened over five years before it was diagnosed and treated. She reported that her surgery was successful, all of her adhesions were removed, and her recovery was "mainly pain free".[76] She credited dancer and actress Julianne Hough with increasing awareness of endometriosis, which encouraged Lipinski to seek out her own treatment.[76]

Records and achievements[edit]

  • Youngest athlete (12 years old) to win a gold medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival (1995)[7]
  • First woman to complete a triple loop-triple loop combination, her signature jump element, in competition (1996)[4]
  • Youngest woman (14 years old) to win the World Figure Skating Championships (1997)[15]
  • Sixth American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating (1998)[5]
  • Youngest skater (16 years old) to win the World Professional Figure Skating Championships (1999)[44]
  • Youngest inductee into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame (2013)[49][77]

Figure skating[edit]


Competition, exhibition gala and ice show programs by season
Season Short program Free skating Exhibition gala/ ice show
1994–95[78] Cirque du Soleil Samson and Delilah
1995–96[78] On the Town Speed

The Prince of Tides

On the Town

The Prince of Tides

1996–97[78] Little Women
Much Ado About Nothing "Walking on Sunshine"
1997–98[79] "Once Upon a December"
"Journey to the Past"
"Prelude and Opening"

"Scenes of Summer-Festival"

  • by Lee Holdridge,
  • London Symphony Orchestra
  • choreo. by Sandra Bezic
"Journey to the Past"

Competitive highlights[edit]

Senior seasons[edit]

Senior events[79]
Event 1995–1996 1996–97 1997–98
Olympics 1st
Worlds 15th 1st WD
GP Final 1st 1st
GP Nations Cup 2nd
GP Skate America 2nd
GP Skate Canada 2nd
GP Trophée Lalique 3rd 2nd
Nebelhorn Trophy 4th
U.S. Championships 3rd 1st 2nd

Junior and novice seasons[edit]

  • J – Junior level
  • N – Novice level
Junior and novice events[79]
Event 1993–94 1994–95 1995–96
Junior Worlds 4th 5th
Nebelhorn Trophy 4th
U.S. Championships 2nd N 2nd J


  • 1998 Skate TV Championships: 1st[80]
  • 1998 Ice Wars: 1st (Team USA)[81]
  • 1998 Jefferson Pilot Financial Championships: 1st[82]
  • 1999 Team Ice Wars: 2nd (Team USA)[83]
  • 1999 Ice Wars: 1st (Team USA)[84]
  • 1999 Grand Slam Super Teams of Skating: 1st[85]
  • 1999 World Professional Championship: 1st[44]
  • 2001 World Ice Challenge: 1st (Team USA)[86]
  • 2002 Ice Wars: 1st (Team USA)[87]

Television credits[edit]


  • Totally Tara - An Olympic Journey (1998)[42]
  • Tara Lipinski: Triumph on Ice (1998)[42]


  1. ^ Lipinski's record was broken by Alysa Liu, who won the 2019 U.S. Nationals, at the age of 13.[13]
  2. ^ Despite the ISU's recent decision to raise the age requirement to enter international competitions, Lipinski was eligible to compete at the Worlds due to a grandfather clause.[15]
  3. ^ Up to 2004, figure skating used the 6.0 system to judge all international competitions. Judges awarded two marks: one for technical merit and one for presentation, and marks ranged from 0 to 6.0.
  4. ^ See Kestnbaum, p. 159, for a more detailed explanation of Lipinski's execution of the Lutz.
  5. ^ In 2018, the name of the half loop jump was changed to the Euler jump.[28]
  6. ^ Lipinski told reporter Jennifer Calfas in 2018 that she got the "same adrenaline rush" from live TV broadcasts that she got as a competitive skater.[51]


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Works cited[edit]

  • Kestnbaum, Ellyn (2003). Culture on Ice: Figure Skating and Cultural Meaning. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0819566411.
  • Swift, E.M. (February 24, 1997). "Kid Stuff". Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. Sports Illustrated. pp. 28–31. Retrieved August 17, 2022.

External links[edit]