Tara Lipinski (born Tara Kristen Lipinski on June 10, 1982 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is a former American figure skater who became an Olympic champion in 1998.
She was also the 1997 World champion, a two-time Champions Series Final champion (in 1997 and 1998), and the 1997 U.S. national champion.
Tara is the youngest ever to win a World Figure Skating title (having done so at the age of 14 years, 9 months and 10 days old).
Early Skating CareerEdit
Tara first began ice skating in 1988, learning technique initially from roller skating coaches in the Philadelphia area.
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 when she was 9 years old.
In 1991, Tara's father's job required the family to move to Sugar Land, Texas; however, training facilities were not available there.
In 1993, she and her mother moved back to Delaware, where Tara had trained before. She later moved to Detroit, Michigan, to train with Richard Callaghan.
Competitive Skating CareerEdit
Tara first came to national prominence when she won the 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival competition (which at the time was a junior-level competition), becoming 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.
Tara was coached by Jeff DiGregorio at the University of Delaware. 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, Tara changed coaches, joining Richard Callaghan in Detroit. Later that season, at the senior level, she placed third at the 1996 U.S. Championships and qualified to compete at the senior-level World Championships.
Tara was second in her qualifying round to Midori Ito, but fell twice in the short program, barely making the cutoff for the long program. She 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; Tara (who was 13 years old 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, she became the first female skater to land a triple loop/triple loop jump combination, which became her signature element.
In early 1997, Tara unexpectedly won the U.S. Championships and at the age of 14, she became the youngest person to win the title ahead of Sonya Klopfer who won it in 1951 at the age of 15.
She 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, again becoming the youngest person to win the title.
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, Tara and Michelle Kwan met again, but after a fall on the triple flip in the short program, she ended the short program in 4th place with Kwan in 1st place.
Although Tara landed seven triples in the long program, she finished second overall to Kwan.
At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Tara skated her short program to music from the 1997 animated movie "Anastasia", placing second to Kwan.
In the long program, Tara performed seven triples, including an 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 (a record that had stood since Norwegian Sonia Henie won the same event at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, also at age 15).
(In 2014, Yulia Lipnitskaya, who was 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.)
Tara trained at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Professional Skating CareerEdit
On March 9, 1998, Tara 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.
On April 7, 1998, Tara 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, Tara took on a full schedule of touring, publicity appearances and acting engagements, albeit requiring constant travel.
Tara was criticized by some (such as sports columnist Christine Brennan) for her decision to retire from competition at such a young age, who likened the pro skating circuit as "joining the circus".
However, this criticism was labelled as "petty backlash" following Tara's defeat of the expected-winner Kwan at the Nagano Olympics.
In the spring and summer of 1998, Tara toured with "Champions on Ice." She then toured with "Stars on Ice" for four seasons.
She 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 (which at that time was doing well) with some performances routinely selling out months in advance.
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'." She generally received favorable reviews and was popular with fans, sometimes signing autographs for hours after each show.
Tara's decision to turn pro coincided with a change in the business climate for the skating industry.
After the 1998 Olympics, many of the professional 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.
Tara 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. Instead, she skated only in the remaining all-pro competitions, which were primarily team events such as "Ice Wars."
Another very notable individual victory came at the 1999 World Professional Figure Skating Championships; at the age of 17, Tara became the youngest person to win that event.
Tara's professional skating career was hampered by a series of hip injuries.
In August of 1998, she suffered a hip injury in practice for "Stars on Ice."
In September of 2000, she underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in her hip. She said her hip problem had been misdiagnosed for several years.
She suffered from another hip injury in 2002 during a "Stars on Ice" show in St. Louis, Missouri when she fell hard on her right hip during a jump and then tore muscles around the bruised area the next day.
Many people have pointed to the repetitive stress of practicing the triple loop combinations Tara performed during her competitive days as the primary cause of her hip problems. She herself has issued contradictory statements about the timing, cause and severity of her injuries.
After Tara's 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, contradicting her earlier account of the original injury having occurred in the summer of 1998 rather than in 1997.
In a 2010 statement on her web site, Tara 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."
Tara participated in rehearsals for a fifth season of the "Stars on Ice" tour in the fall of 2002, but she 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 and her injuries caused friction with the show's producers and other cast members.
Tara 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."
In later interviews, Tara also expressed frustration with the artistic direction of the show at that time; for example, reviewers had particularly panned the rap ensemble performed by her with Kristi Yamaguchi & Katarina Witt in the 2001–02 tour.
Tara has made several television appearances, appearing on various prime-time shows such as "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." She also made a cameo appearance in the film "Vanilla Sky."
In 1999, Tara had a brief supporting role on "The Young and the Restless". She starred in the 2000 television movie "Ice Angel" 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 and "Girls Behaving Badly"; she has also appeared on numerous magazine covers as well as every major talk show.
In 1999, CBS aired a prime-time special called "Tara Lipinski: From This Moment On."
Tara made an appearance on The Today Show on March 18, 2011, where she skated to Ben Harper's "Forever".
In October of 2013, it was announced that Tara would be a commentator and analyst on NBC, NBC Sports, and Universal Sports during the Sochi Winter Games.
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.
In September of 2014, Tara and Johnny 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 from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games would 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 the promotion, Tara, Johnny and Gannon only did the other five Grand Prix events and the Grand Prix Final while Hamilton, Bezic and Hammond got the bigger events like the National Championships.
NBC has increased Tara and Johnny's exposure in having them as "fashion and lifestyle experts" for the Kentucky Derby since 2014, and in 2016, they were announced as "cultural correspondents" for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The pair has also done commentary for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In July 2016, Tara became an executive producer for a potential Hulu drama series centered on figure skating.
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Tara 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.
Her 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.
In December of 2015, Tara announced her engagement to Todd Kapostasy, a television producer; they were married on June 24, 2017, in Charleston, South Carolina. Her broadcast partner, Johnny Weir was a bridesman at Tara's wedding.