Tara Lipinski

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Tara Lipinski
Personal information
Full nameTara Kristen Lipinski
Country representedUnited States
Born(1982-06-10) June 10, 1982 (age 30)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

5 ft 1 in (1.55 m)

(4 ft 10 in 1998)
Former coachRichard Callaghan
ChoreographerSandra Bezic
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Tara Lipinski
Personal information
Full nameTara Kristen Lipinski
Country representedUnited States
Born(1982-06-10) June 10, 1982 (age 30)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

5 ft 1 in (1.55 m)

(4 ft 10 in 1998)
Former coachRichard Callaghan
ChoreographerSandra Bezic
Olympic medal record
Women's figure skating
Competitor for  United States
Gold1998 NaganoSingles

Tara Kristen Lipinski (born June 10, 1982) is an American figure skater. At the age of 15, she won the Ladies' Singles Olympic gold medal in figure skating at the 1998 Winter Olympics. Lipinski remains the youngest individual gold medalist in the history of the Olympic Winter Games.[1] She is also the 1997 World Champion, two-time Champions Series Final Champion (1997–1998) and 1997 U.S. Champion.


Early life

Lipinski, an only child, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Patricia (née Brozyniak), a secretary, and Jack Richard Lipinski, an oil executive and lawyer.[2][3] She spent her earliest years in Washington Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey.[4] The family lived in Sewell, New Jersey until 1991.[5] Lipinski began roller skating at age three and later won a number of competitions. She began figure skating at age six. Her first competition was the 1990 regional championship, where she finished second. At the 1991 United States Roller Skating Championships, she won the primary girls freestyle as a nine-year-old.[6]

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.[7]

Competitive career

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 at the 1995 U.S. Championships. By that time, Lipinski was the subject of a great deal of media attention.

After a fifth-place finish at the 1996 World Junior Championships, Lipinski changed coaches from Jeff Di Gregorio at the University of Delaware to Richard Callaghan in Detroit. Moving up to the senior level 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 into remaining eligible for future events, along with other skaters who had already competed at the World Championships before the new age requirement was introduced.

In 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.[2] She went on to win the World Championships, again becoming the youngest person to win the title. At the 1996 U.S. Postal Challenge, Lipinski became the first female skater to land a triple loop/triple loop jump combination, which became her signature element. Lipinski also won the 1997 Champion Series Final, again becoming the youngest female ever 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 Laetitia 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 night in 4th place with Kwan in 1st place. Although she landed seven triples in the long program, she finished second to Kwan.

Going into the 1998 Winter Olympics, Lipinski embraced the experience, living in the Olympic village, experiencing all that Nagano had to offer, and mingling with other competitors. 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 very end, a triple toe/half loop/triple salchow sequence, to overtake Kwan for the gold medal. She became the youngest ever ladies Olympic Figure Skating Champion and the youngest individual gold medalist in Winter Olympic history.

Professional career

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.[8]

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 full schedule of touring, publicity appearances, and acting engagements, albeit that they required constant travel.[9] 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."[10] 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.[11]

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,[12] which at that time was doing well, with some performances routinely selling out months in advance.[13][14] Choreographic 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' ".[13] Lipinski generally received favorable reviews and was popular with fans, sometimes signing autographs for hours after each show.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

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. After a string of other injuries, she underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in her hip in September 2000.[19] 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.[20]

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,[21][22] contradicting her earlier account of the original injury having occurred in the summer of 1998 rather than in 1997.[19] More recently, 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."[23]

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,[24] 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."[25] In later interviews she also expressed frustration with the artistic direction of the show at that time.[26] For example, reviewers had particularly panned the rap ensemble performed by Lipinski with Kristi Yamaguchi and Katarina Witt in the 2001–2002 tour.[27][28][29]

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, 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 now spends most of her time in New York.

Lipinski is now a sports commentator for Universal Sports for figure skating.

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

Awards and recognition

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.

Philanthropic work, endorsements, and publications

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[30] 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,[31] 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:


SeasonShort programFree skatingExhibition
  • Anastasia
  • The Rainbow
  • Little Women
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • On the Town
  • Speed
  • The Prince of Tides



CS Final1st1st
Nations Cup2nd
Skate America2nd
Skate Canada2nd
Trophée Lalique3rd2nd
International: Junior
Junior Worlds4th5th
U.S. Champ.2nd N.2nd J.3rd1st2nd
Levels: N. = Novice; J. = Junior



  1. ^ Tara Lipinski profile at IOC web site
  2. ^ a b Swift, E.M. (February 24, 1997). "Kid Stuff". Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1009516/index.htm. Retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ Tara Lipinski Biography (1982–)
  4. ^ via Associated Press. "GOLDEN GIRL CHEERS FROM HER N.J. HOME TOWN CHEERING TARA \ HER N.J. HOME TOWN SALUTES CHAMP", Philadelphia Daily News, February 21, 1998. Accessed August 12, 2008.
  5. ^ Longman, Jere. " THE XVIII WINTER GAMES: FIGURE SKATING – WOMAN IN THE NEWS; Dynamo on the Ice: Tara Kristen Lipinski", The New York Times, February 21, 1998. Accessed December 26, 2007. "Tara Kristen Lipinski was born in Philadelphia on June 10, 1982, and lived her early years in Sewell, N.J."
  6. ^ "FAST FACTS", Philadelphia Daily News, August 6, 1991. Accessed 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..."
  7. ^ Tara Lipinski biography URL accessed June 6, 2006
  8. ^ Ailing Lipinski to Skip World Championships
  9. ^ Lipinski Turns Pro to Unite Her Family
  10. ^ Scott Hamilton, Landing It, ISBN 1-57566-466-6, p. 319
  11. ^ Lipinski Joins the Circus
  12. ^ ‘Lipinski to join Stars on Ice Tour’, Barry Wilner, AP Newswire, 19 August 1998
  13. ^ a b ‘The ice stars cometh Skaters glide into Hershey next week’, Kate Rauhauser-Smith, York Magazine, 26 March 1999
  14. ^ ‘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’, Lorilee Cracker, The Grand Rapids Press, 31 March 2001
  15. ^ ‘Ice fans to see how well Lipinski skates’ Barry Fox, Patriot-News, 26 March 1999
  16. ^ The Rise and Fall of the Pro Skating World
  17. ^ USFSA Releases Lipinski from Contract, Blades On Ice, November–December 1998
  18. ^ Lipinski is youngest champion, Frank Litsky, The New York Times, 12 December 1999
  19. ^ a b Lipinski's web site journal, October 16, 2000
  20. ^ Lipinski's web site journal, March 4, 2002
  21. ^ "Tara Lipinski", Blades On Ice, August 2001
  22. ^ Mark Lund, Frozen Assets, ISBN 0-9721402-0-4, p. 196-200
  23. ^ Q&A with Tara
  24. ^ Mark Lund, Frozen Assets, ISBN 0-9721402-0-4, p. 203-204
  25. ^ June 13 2005 journal entry via the Internet Archive
  26. ^ "Living in Los Angeles", Blades On Ice, January–February 2006
  27. ^ "Stars On Ice", Blades On Ice, March–April 2002
  28. ^ Stars on Ice – Philadelphia, PA 03/09/02
  29. ^ Mark Lund, Frozen Assets, ISBN 0-9721402-0-4, p. 89
  30. ^ Clinton to urge senate to pass McCain bill’, US Newswire, 20 May 1998
  31. ^ Skaters to give St Jude $250,000’, Mary Powers, The Commercial Appeal Memphis, TN, 16 March 2000]
  32. ^ 1998 Skate TV results
  33. ^ Ice Wars results
  34. ^ 1998 JP Financial Pro results
  35. ^ 1999 Team Ice Wars results
  36. ^ 1999 Grand Slam Super Teams results

External links