Sport: Figure Skating
Born: June 10, 1982
Town: Washington Township
Tara Kristen Lipinski was born June 10, 1982 in Philadelphia and grew up in South Jersey in Washington Township and Mantua Township. Her father, Jack, was an oil industry executive. As a little girl, Tara demonstrated an unusual flair for roller skating. She finished second in the Eastern Regional Roller Skating Championships at age 6 in 1988 and won the girls freestyle title at the U.S. Roller Skating Championships at age 9.
During this time, Tara was also taking figure skating lessons at rinks in Pennsylvania and Delaware. She was progressing nicely until Jack was transferred to Texas in 1991. The Lipinskis were unhappy with the coaching in Texas and, in 1993, Tara and her mother moved back east, to Delaware, where she worked with Jeff DiGregorio. Tara won the U.S. Olympic Festival as a 12-year-old in 1994 and in early 1995 finished fourth at the World Junior Championships. After finish fifth at the 1996 World Junior Championships, Tara and her mom moved to Michigan, where she began training with Richard Callaghan at the Detroit Skating Club. Callaghan had just coached Nicole Bobek to a national title.
Tara began to make her mark at the senior level before she turned 14. She finished third at the 1996 U.S. Championships and skated brilliantly in qualifying at the 1996 World Championships. Although she ended up a distant 15th, her appearance at the worlds enabled her to keep skating at the senior level after the International Skating Union raised the minimum age for competitors to 15. Later that season. Tara landed triple-loop/triple-loop—a perilous element for men that had never been done before by a woman. It would become her signature move.
In February 1997, Tara shocked the sport by winning the U.S. Championships, becoming the youngest ever to do so at 14. She repeated this feat at the season’s two other big events, the Champions Series Final and World Championships. She beat Michelle Kwan and Vansessa Gusmeroli of France at the Worlds. Tara and Michelle squared of a year later at the 1998 U.S. Championships. A fall in the short program put Tara’s Olympic aspirations in peril, but in the long program she nailed seven triple jumps to salvage a second-place finish and a trip to Nagano.
The two young superstars were favored to win gold and silver at the Winter Games, and after the short program Kwan held a slight lead. In her long performance, Tara landed seven flawless triples, including a breathtaking triple-loop/triple-loop and concluded with a triple-toe/half-loop/triple-Selchow. Kwan followed with a wonderful program. Of the nine judges, six scored Tara’s performance higher, giving her the gold medal. She became the youngest individual gold medalist in her sport.
Tara turned pro in April of 1998 and toured for four years as the featured skater in Champions on Ice and Stars on Ice. Her presence drew countless thousands of young girls to a sport that typically attracted older fans. She often stayed after her performances to sign autographs for an hour or more. Tara competed in several pro competitions, winning the World Professional Figure Skating Championships in 1999—at 17 the youngest to do so.
All those triple-jumps started to catch up to Tara around this time. For several years she dealt with hip injuries. In her 20s, Tara skated a little less and began pursuing a media career—both as a commentator and in occasional guest-starring roles n TV series. She also became a national spokesperson for the Boys and Girls Clubs.