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Tara Lipinski


Tara Kristen Lipinski (born June 10, 1982) is an American figure skater. At the age of 15, she won the Olympic gold medal in figure skating at the 1998 Winter Olympics, and remains the youngest individual gold medalist in the history of the Olympic Winter Games.

Her 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. Later that season she placed fourth at the 1995 World Junior Figure Skating Championships and second in the junior level at the 1995 United States Figure Skating Championships. By that time, Lipinski was the subject of a great deal of media attention.

After a disappointing 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, she benefited from the withdrawal of Nicole Bobek from the 1996 U.S. Championships to place third and qualify for the World Figure Skating Championships, where she placed fifteenth.

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 both the U.S. and World Championships, and, at the age of 14, became the youngest person ever to win either 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.

The following season, Lipinski got off to a shaky start, losing to Michelle Kwan at Skate America, to Laetitia Hubert at Trophee Lalique, and to Kwan again at the 1998 U.S. Championships.

At the 1998 Winter Olympics, both Lipinski and Kwan skated excellent programs, with Lipinski winning a narrow victory. Many people believe that Lipinski was aided by the fact that she skated near the end of the last group, as Kwan had skated first, as it is a common practice for judges to "save room" for skaters who have yet to perform. However, Lipinski performed a more technically difficult program than Kwan. Lipinski landed a triple loop triple loop combination and a triple toe half loop triple salchow combination in her long program.

Her Professional Career

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, rather than spending time at home, Lipinski immediately embarked on full schedule of touring, publicity appearances, and acting engagements that required constant travel.

Following her decision to turn professional, Lipinski was heavily criticized both for the decision itself and for the inept public relations skills of her agent and family. For example, the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) was not officially informed of Lipinski's decision to withdraw from the World Championships before the announcement was made to the press. In addition to Lipinski's own conflicting statements, her agent, Mike Burg, told reporters he was worried about Lipinski "tarnishing" her Olympic medal by continuing to compete. Also, in a widely publicized incident, Lipinski's mother said to the press when she found that Michelle Kwan, rather than Lipinski, had been chosen to present a team jacket to President Bill Clinton at a White House reception for Olympic athletes, "Don't you think it's a terrible thing for them to do to poor Tara? It's been like this for poor Tara. It's a terrible thing." Tara herself didn't seem to mind, however.

Not long after she turned professional, Lipinski broke an existing $1.2 million contract to appear in made-for-TV events sponsored by the USFSA.

In August 1998, Lipinski suffered a hip injury in practice. After a string of other injuries, she underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in her hip in September 2000. 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.

In an August 2001 article in Blades on Ice magazine, Lipinski stated that the real reason she 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. It was never adequately explained why she never mentioned this injury at the time, or why all of her previous statements (including those on her official web site) regarding her hip problems referred to the original injury as happening in the summer of 1998 rather than in 1997.

After turning professional, Lipinski toured with Stars on Ice for four seasons. It was not entirely a successful arrangement for a number of reasons. First of all, Stars on Ice was always an adult-oriented skating show, but Lipinski's own marketing played up her extreme youth and her appeal to pre-teenagers. Second, Lipinski's injuries not only caused the technical level of her skating to deteriorate, but also caused friction with the producers and other skaters involved with the show who never knew from one day to the next whether she would be fit to skate. Finally, because Lipinski was so young, she felt isolated from the off-ice camaraderie of the other skaters. In a note on her web site dated June 15, 2005, Lipinski said: "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."

Lipinski suffered another hip injury in 2002 during a Stars on Ice show in St. Louis, when she fell on her right hip during a jump. "I still thought everything would be fine. I had fallen before and would fall again." The next day, Lipinski tore muscles around her hip, causing the other muscles to take the load and fail.

She 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. Although she has not made any official announcement of her retirement from skating, she has not skated since, and has instead concentrated on acting.

Since turning professional, Lipinski has made several television appearances, which have included guest roles on a number of primetime shows (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 Los Angeles.