Tara Lipinski

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Tara Lipinski
Tara lipinski.jpg
Lipinski, circa 1998
Personal information
Full name Tara Kristen Lipinski
Country represented United States
Born (1982-06-10) June 10, 1982 (age 33)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Former coach Richard Callaghan
Jeff DiGregorio
Megan Faulkner[1]
Former choreographer Sandra Bezic
Former training locations Detroit
Newark, Delaware
Retired 1998

Tara Kristen Lipinski (born June 10, 1982)[2] is an American former figure skater, actress, and sports commentator. She won the ladies' singles Olympic gold medal in figure skating at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, on February 20, 1998 at the age of 15 years, 8 months, and 10 days, becoming the youngest Olympic gold medalist in ladies' figure skating in an individual event. When she won the 1997 World Champion at the age of 14 years, 9 months and 10 days, she became the youngest person – by 32 days – ever to win a World Figure Skating Championship,[3] and she is two-time Champions Series Final Champion (1997–1998) and 1997 U.S. Champion.

Early life[edit]

Lipinski was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Patricia (née Brozyniak), a secretary, and Jack Lipinski, an oil executive and lawyer.[4][5][2] She spent her earliest years in Washington Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey.[6] The family lived in the Sewell section of Mantua Township, New Jersey until 1991.[7]

Tara learned ice figure skating technique from roller skating coaches in the Philadelphia area initially, but her first major competition was the 1990 Eastern Regional Championships for roller skating where she finished second. At the 1991 United States Roller Skating Championships, she won the primary girls freestyle as a nine-year-old.[8]

In 1991, her father's job required the family to move to Sugar Land, Texas. However, training facilities were not available there. In 1993, Lipinski and her mother moved back to Delaware, where she had trained before. She later moved to Detroit, Michigan, to train with Richard Callaghan.[9]

Competitive career[edit]

Lipinski first came to national prominence when she won the 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival competition, which at the time was a junior-level competition. She became the youngest ladies figure skating gold medalist as well as the youngest athlete in any discipline to win gold. Later that season she placed fourth at the 1995 World Junior Championships and second in the junior level, behind Sydne Vogel, at the 1995 U.S. Championships.[10][11] Lipinski was coached by Jeff DiGregorio at the University of Delaware.[11] By 1995, she was the subject of a great deal of media attention, coined "Tara-Mania" by the media.

After a fifth-place finish at the 1996 World Junior Championships, Lipinski changed coaches, joining Richard Callaghan in Detroit. Later that season, at the senior level, she placed third at the 1996 United States Figure Skating Championships and qualified to compete at the senior-level World Championships. Lipinski was second in her qualifying round to Midori Ito, but fell twice in the short program, barely making the cutoff for the long program. Lipinski rallied to land seven triple jumps, including a triple salchow/triple loop combination, finishing 11th in the long program and 15th overall. Later that year, the International Skating Union voted to raise the minimum age for participating at the World Championships to 15. Lipinski, who was 13 at the time, was grandfathered in and remained eligible for future events, along with other skaters who had already competed at the World Championships before the new age requirement was introduced.

In late 1996, at the U.S. Postal Challenge, Lipinski became the first female skater to land a triple loop/triple loop jump combination, which became her signature element. In early 1997, Lipinski unexpectedly won the U.S. Championships and, at 14, became the youngest person to win the title ahead of Sonya Klopfer who won it in 1951 at the age of 15.[5] Lipinski also won the 1997 Champion Series Final, again becoming the youngest female ever to win the title. She went on to win the World Championships,[12] again becoming the youngest person to win the title.

The following season, Lipinski finished second to Michelle Kwan at Skate America and, while suffering from a bad head cold, to Laëtitia Hubert at Trophée Lalique. With Kwan sidelined due to a toe-related stress fracture injury, Lipinski defended her Champion Series Final title (now known as the Grand Prix Final). At the 1998 U.S. Nationals, Kwan and Lipinski met again, but after a fall on the triple flip in the short program, Lipinski ended the short program in 4th place with Kwan in 1st place. Although she landed seven triples in the long program, she finished second overall to Kwan.

At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Lipinski skated her short program to music from the animated movie "Anastasia", placing second to Kwan. In the long program, Lipinski performed seven triples, including a historic triple loop/triple loop combination and, at the end, a triple toe/half loop/triple Salchow sequence, to overtake Kwan for the gold medal. She became the youngest ladies' Olympic Figure Skating Champion and the youngest individual gold medalist. (In 2014, Yulia Lipnitskaya, six days younger than Lipinski at the time of her Olympic victory, became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in ladies figure skating by winning gold with the Russian team in the team event, not the individual event as Lipinski had.)

Professional career[edit]

On March 9, 1998, Lipinski announced her decision to withdraw from the 1998 World Figure Skating Championships, citing a serious glandular infection that required her to have two molars extracted, constant fatigue, and possible mononucleosis.[13]

On April 7, 1998, Lipinski announced her intention to turn professional in an interview with Katie Couric on the Today Show. She cited a desire to spend more time with her family, to have time for school, and to compete professionally against other Olympic champions. However, given the opportunities available to a newly crowned Olympic champion, Lipinski took on a full schedule of touring, publicity appearances, and acting engagements, albeit that they required constant travel.[14] She was also heavily criticized by some for her decision to retire from competition at such a young age; for example, Christine Brennan, writing in USA Today, compared the pro skating circuit to "joining the circus."[15] However, the criticism aimed at Lipinski was labelled by one commentator as "petty backlash" following her defeat of the expected-winner Kwan at the Nagano Olympics.[16]

In the spring and summer of 1998, Lipinski toured with Champions on Ice. She then toured with Stars on Ice for four seasons. Lipinski appealed to a younger audience, attracting new fans to what had traditionally been an adult-oriented show. Her signing to Stars on Ice was reported as a coup for the tour,[17] which at that time was doing well, with some performances routinely selling out months in advance.[18][19] Choreographer Sandra Bezic commented, "Tara reminds us why we're doing this – the idealism, the genuine love of skating. There's a real sweetness there that makes us all go, 'Yeah, I remember' ".[18] Lipinski generally received favorable reviews and was popular with fans, sometimes signing autographs for hours after each show.[20]

Lipinski's decision to turn pro coincided with a change in the business climate for the skating industry. After the 1998 Olympics, many of the pro skating competitions that had sprung up in the aftermath of the 1994 Tonya Harding spectacle were converted to a pro-am format or discontinued entirely as audiences lost interest.[21] Lipinski did not want to compete in the new pro-am events, and not long after she turned professional, she broke an existing $1.2 million contract to appear in made-for-TV events sponsored by the USFSA.[22] Instead, she skated only in the remaining all-pro competitions, which were primarily team events such as Ice Wars. Her most notable individual victory came at the 1999 World Professional Figure Skating Championships; at age 17, she became the youngest person to win that event.[23]

Lipinski's professional skating career was hampered by a series of hip injuries. In August 1998, Lipinski suffered a hip injury in practice for Stars on Ice. In September 2000, she underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in her hip.[24][25] She said her hip problem had been misdiagnosed for several years.[26] Lipinski suffered another hip injury in 2002 during a Stars on Ice show in St. Louis, when she fell hard on her right hip during a jump, and then tore muscles around the bruised area the next day.[27]

Many people have pointed to the repetitive stress of practicing the triple loop combinations Lipinski performed during her competitive days as the primary cause of her hip problems. Lipinski herself has issued contradictory statements about the timing, cause, and severity of her injuries. After her surgery in 2000, she stated in interviews that the real reason she had turned professional was that she had originally incurred the injury to her hip in the summer of 1997 and that she had skated the entire Olympic season in terrible pain,[28][29] contradicting her earlier account of the original injury having occurred in the summer of 1998 rather than in 1997.[25] In a 2010 statement on her web site, Lipinski denied that her hip injury was a factor in her decision to retire or that she suffered particular pain during her amateur career beyond "the norm for any athlete."[30]

Lipinski participated in rehearsals for a fifth season of the Stars on Ice tour in the fall of 2002 but withdrew from the tour before it began. She had been increasingly unhappy with life on the tour; she felt isolated from the off-ice camaraderie of the older skaters on the tour;[31] and her injuries caused friction with the show's producers and other cast members. She later wrote on her official web site, "It was really hard those last two years of touring for me. Emotionally I was drained and hurt. I have never been treated like that in my whole life."[32] In later interviews she also expressed frustration with the artistic direction of the show at that time.[33] For example, reviewers had particularly panned the rap ensemble performed by Lipinski with Kristi Yamaguchi and Katarina Witt in the 2001–02 tour.[34][35][36]

She has made several television appearances, which have included guest roles on a number of primetime shows (Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Touched by an Angel, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Malcolm in the Middle, Veronica's Closet, Whose Line is it Anyway, Early Edition, 7th Heaven and Still Standing), as well as a cameo in the theatrical film Vanilla Sky. Lipinski also played a brief supporting role on The Young and the Restless in 1999, starred in the TV movie Ice Angel in 2000, and was cast in the independent film The Metro Chase. Additionally, she has been a celebrity guest on VH-1's The List, Fox's Beach Party, several Nickelodeon productions, Girls Behaving Badly and has appeared on numerous magazine covers as well as every major talk show. In 1999, CBS aired a primetime special, Tara Lipinski: From This Moment On.

Lipinski made an appearance on the Today Show on March 18, 2011, where she skated to Ben Harper's "Forever".

In October 2013, it was announced that Lipinski would be a commentator and analyst on NBC, NBC Sports and Universal Sports during the Sochi Winter Games.[37][38][39] As a result of positive reviews for the event, Lipinski and fellow analyst Johnny Weir were invited to appear as fashion commentators for Access Hollywood at the 86th Academy Awards with host Billy Bush.[40] In September 2014 Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir were promoted to NBC's primary Figure Skating Broadcasting team with Terry Gannon after more than a decade of Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic and Tom Hammond at the helm. This promotion meant The B team of NBCSN at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games will now be commentating at every major skating event aired on NBC networks including the Grand Prix of Figure Skating: Skate America and the United States Figure Skating National Championships. Before this promotion, Tara, Johnny and Terry only did the other five Grand Prix events and the Grand Prix Final, while Scott, Sandra and Tom got the bigger events like the National Championships.[41]

Philanthropic work, endorsements, and publications[edit]

With Shaquille O'Neal and Denzel Washington, Lipinski is a national spokesperson for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. She is also a spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids[42] and the Childhood Leukemia Foundation. Lipinski is also involved with the Office of National Drug Control Policy's anti-drug campaign. Her anti-drug public service announcement aired nationwide on TV and in theaters in 2000.

She is also dedicated to helping children in need, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Children's Circle of Care, the philanthropic organization for children's hospitals nationwide. She has also supported St. Jude Children's Research Hospital,[43] and numerous cancer research efforts.

Her portfolio of endorsements includes McDonald's, Charles Schwab, Chevrolet, Snapple, DKNY, Minute Maid, Capezio, Mattel, Campbell's Soup, Autoweb.com, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, Kleenex, Kodak, Hallmark Cards, Office Depot, Smuckers, Target and others. Lipinski has also been on the runway for Limited Too!. Lipinski has two official books in print: Totally Tara – An Olympic Journey and Triumph On Ice. In additional there are numerous unofficial biographies, including:

  • 'Tara Lipinski: Queen of the Ice', Bill Gutman
  • 'Tara Lipinski: Superstar Ice-Skater', Stasia Ward Kehoe
  • 'Tara Lipinski (Sports Superstars)', Richard Rambeck
  • 'On Ice with Tara Lipinski', Matt Christopher
  • 'Tara Lipinski (Champion Sports Biographies)', Annis Karpenko
  • 'Tara the Road to Gold', Wendy Daly
  • 'Tara Lipinski (Awesome Athletes)', Jill Wheeler
  • 'Tara Lipinski (Female Skating Legends)', Veda Boyd Jones
  • 'Tara Lipinski (Jam Session)', Terri Dougherty
  • 'Tara Lipinski: Star Figure Skater', Barry Wilner

Skating technique[edit]

Lipinski is best known for her consistent athletic ability which included a number of difficult jumping passes. She completed a triple loop/triple loop and a triple toe/half loop/triple Salchow. These combinations are very rare to this day. Lipinski's jumps were tight in the air with very fast rotations, and her double Axel technique became very popular among many skaters for years to come.

Awards and recognition[edit]

The year before her Olympic win, the U.S. Olympic Committee named Lipinski the 1997 Female Athlete of the Year. Lipinski is particularly proud of the recognition she has received from fans. In 1999 and 2000 she was voted Best Female Athlete at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. In 1999, she won Best Female Athlete at the inaugural Fox Teen Choice Awards. She received similar awards from Teen People and Teen magazine. She has been recognized by the American Academy of Achievement, the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Foundation, and many other organizations. In 2006, Lipinski was the youngest ever inductee into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame.


Season Short program Free skating Exhibition



Event 1993–94 1994–95 1995–96 1996–97 1997–98
Olympics 1st
Worlds 15th 1st
CS Final 1st 1st
CS Nations Cup 2nd
CS Skate America 2nd
CS Skate Canada 2nd
CS Trophée Lalique 3rd 2nd
Nebelhorn 4th
International: Junior
Junior Worlds 4th 5th
U.S. Champ. 2nd N. 2nd J. 3rd 1st 2nd
Levels: N. = Novice; J. = Junior


  • 1998 Skate TV Championships: 1st[44]
  • 1998 Ice Wars: 1st (Team USA)[45]
  • 1998 Jefferson Pilot Financial Championships: 1st[46]
  • 1999 Team Ice Wars: 2nd (Team USA)[47]
  • 1999 Ice Wars: 1st (Team USA)
  • 1999 Grand Slam Super Teams of Skating: 1st[48]
  • 1999 World Professional Championship: 1st
  • 2001 World Ice Challenge: 1st (Team USA)
  • 2002 Ice Wars: 1st (Team USA)


  1. ^ "Tara Lipinski back in the booth and back on the ice (Lifeskate)". lifeskate.com. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Tara Lipinski Biography (1982–)". FilmReference.com. 
  3. ^ Jones, Terry (March 23, 1997). "Lipinski's reign of Tara". Edmonton Sun. 
  4. ^ "Polish American History Calendar". polishamericancongressnj.org. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Swift, E.M. (February 24, 1997). "Kid Stuff". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Golden Girl Cheers From Her N.J. Home Town Cheering Tara; Her N.J. Home Town Salutes Champ". Associated Press (Philadelphia Daily News). February 21, 1998. Retrieved August 12, 2008. 
  7. ^ Longman, Jere (February 21, 1998). "THE XVIII WINTER GAMES: FIGURE SKATING – WOMAN IN THE NEWS; Dynamo on the Ice: Tara Kristen Lipinski". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2007. Tara Kristen Lipinski was born in Philadelphia on June 10, 1982, and lived her early years in Sewell, N.J. 
  8. ^ "Fast Facts". Philadelphia Daily News. August 6, 1991. Retrieved August 12, 2008. Nine-year-old Tara Lipinski, of Washington Township, NJ, won the primary girls freestyle event at the 55th United States Roller Skating Championships... 
  9. ^ "Tara Lipinski biography". TV.com. Retrieved June 6, 2006. 
  10. ^ Fernandez, Bernard (February 8, 1995). "Young Skaters Chase Olympic-sized Dream". Philly.com. 
  11. ^ a b Ford, Bob (February 10, 1995). "Skater Tara Lipinski A Controversial Second In U.S. Junior Division". Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  12. ^ "World Junior Figure Skating Championships: Ladies" (PDF). International Skating Union. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 24, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Ailing Lipinski to Skip World Championships". New York Times. March 10, 1998. 
  14. ^ "Lipinski Turns Pro to Unite Her Family". New York Times. April 8, 1998. 
  15. ^ Hamilton, Scott, Landing It, p. 319, ISBN 1-57566-466-6 
  16. ^ "Lipinski Joins the Circus". 
  17. ^ Wilner, Barry (August 19, 1998), "Lipinski to join Stars on Ice Tour", Associated Press 
  18. ^ a b Rauhauser-Smith, Kate (March 26, 1999), "The ice stars cometh; Skaters glide into Hershey next week", York Magazine 
  19. ^ Cracker, Lorilee (March 31, 2001), "Hamilton's last Stars on Ice is smooth entertainment; Everything old is new again, and Ilia Kulik's rubbery breakdance sequence to Herbie Hancock's '80s tune "Rockit" was the ultimate in retro-cool", The Grand Rapids Press 
  20. ^ Fox, Barry (March 26, 1999), "Ice fans to see how well Lipinski skates", Patriot-News 
  21. ^ "The Rise and Fall of the Pro Skating World". Skate Today. 
  22. ^ USFSA Releases Lipinski from Contract, Blades On Ice magazine, November–December 1998 
  23. ^ Litsky, Frank (December 12, 1999). "Lipinski is youngest champion". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Falcon, Mike (September 6, 2002). "Tara Lipinski skates past DVT". USA Today. 
  25. ^ a b "Lipinski's web site journal". October 16, 2000. 
  26. ^ "Skater Tara Lipinski Speaks Out About DVT". NIH Medline Plus. Spring 2011. 
  27. ^ "Lipinski's web site journal". March 4, 2002. 
  28. ^ Tara Lipinski, Blades On Ice magazine, August 2001 
  29. ^ Lund, Mark, Frozen Assets, pp. 196–200, ISBN 0-9721402-0-4 
  30. ^ "Q&A with Tara". 
  31. ^ Lund, Mark, Frozen Assets, pp. 203–204, ISBN 0-9721402-0-4 
  32. ^ "Lipinski's web site journal". June 13, 2005. 
  33. ^ Living in Los Angeles, Blades On Ice magazine, January–February 2006 
  34. ^ Stars On Ice, Blades On Ice magazine, March–April 2002 
  35. ^ "Stars on Ice – Philadelphia, PA". March 9, 2002. 
  36. ^ Lund, Mark, Frozen Assets, p. 89, ISBN 0-9721402-0-4 
  37. ^ "Olympic Gold Medalist Figure Skater Tara Lipinski". KTLA. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  38. ^ "Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski, Tanith Belbin join NBC Olympics coverage – OlympicTalk". nbcsports.com. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  39. ^ http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/tara-and-johnny-looking-towards-olympics
  40. ^ Litman, Laken (26 Feb 2014), Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir are working the red carpet at the Oscars, As fashion commentators of course!, USA Today Sports, retrieved 26 Feb 2014 
  41. ^ Chicago Tribune (19 September 2014). "Lipinski, Weir now No. 1 NBC skating broadcast team – Chicago Tribune". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  42. ^ "Clinton to urge senate to pass McCain bill", US Newswire, May 20, 1998 
  43. ^ Powers, Mary (March 16, 2000), Skaters to give St Jude $250,000, The Commercial Appeal Memphis, TN 
  44. ^ 1998 Skate TV results
  45. ^ Ice Wars results
  46. ^ 1998 JP Financial Pro results
  47. ^ 1999 Team Ice Wars results
  48. ^ 1999 Grand Slam Super Teams results

External links[edit]