Tara Kristen Lipinski was born on June 10, 1982, an only child to Jack and Patricia Lipinski in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By the time she was three, she found herself in roller skates and before long, the tiny toddler was soaring through the neighborhood of her new home in Sewell, New Jersey. Two years later, she won a roller-skating regional championship in New Jersey at the age of five.
At age six, Lipinski first discovered the ice, and the smoothness of the surface came naturally to her. But it wasn’t easy in the beginning. That first day, Lipinski took the ice and while her parents went to buy hot chocolate, they returned to see their daughter having some difficulty. To this day, a photograph of her first day on the ice hangs on the wall of her room.
The Lipinski family hired a coach — Scott Gregory — who worked with young Tara four times a week, while her mother patiently drove her back and forth to Delaware to practice skating. The other three days were spent roller-skating and she won her first national title by the time she was nine.
Her father’s oil executive job took the family to Sugarland, Texas when Lipinski was 10 years old. While the youngster was not happy with the move, her budding skating career continued to thrive despite being in Texas, where ice is only perceived as an accompaniment to drinks. But Lipinski was determined to be a skater, passing up on other diversions her parents offered her like playing the piano or violin.
Every morning at 3 a.m., mother and daughter would wake up and drive to neighboring Houston for skating lessons. In the summer, while her friends relaxed on the warm, sunny beach, Lipinski was back in Delaware — at skate camp.
By the time Lipinski was 11, her career met a pivotal moment. It was becoming clear that Lipinski was on the verge of becoming something big — despite her petite size. Texas was no place to groom a future figure skating Olympian. With her mom, Tara moved to Delaware; her father stayed behind in Texas and their home there was refinanced to pay for the apartment and skating lessons with new coach Jeff DiGregorio.
In the summer of 1994, Lipinski delivered an epic performance at the U.S. Olympic Festival, becoming the youngest athlete ever to win gold (at 12 years of age). By 1995, Lipinski finished fifth in the Junior World Championships, won silver at the U.S. Championships, and moved on to work with accomplished coach Richard Callaghan in 1996.
By this time Tara and her mother relocated to Michigan, and under Callaghan — who guided Nicole Bobek and Todd Eldredge to glory — Lipinski continued to excel both on the ice and in the classroom. While nailing down the triple-loop, triple-loop combination that no other female skater had landed, Lipinski also finished school with straight A’s despite the near five hours a day she spent at the Detroit Skating Club. Each day, the workouts would culminate with the determined skater forcing herself to land five consecutive, flawless jumps.
A bronze at the 1996 National Championships and 15th at the World Championship served to set up what was yet to come the following year; in 1997, Lipinski won gold in both the U.S. championships and internationally as well.
At the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, Lipinski fulfilled her dream. On February 20, 1998, the tiny 15-year-old leapt into the record books with a historic free skate that led her to the top of the medal podium. She shocked the skating world by defeating Michelle Kwan, a fellow American who was favored to win gold.
Later that year, Lipinski officially retired from competitive, amateur figure skating and turned to where the money was. She started by winning a world professional championship in 1999 and appeared in the Skate TV Championships — a hip, MTV-centric skating competition.
Lipinski also began her acting career, appearing in primetime dramas, soap operas and movies, while continuing on the Stars On Ice pro circuit. It was then, in 2000, that she suffered a hip injury, which sent her under the knife to repair a torn labrum and remove scar tissue.
Despite being told she may never skate again, Lipinski returned within seven weeks and was a headliner for 60 stops on the Stars On Ice tour.
Now, as her career in show business takes further flight, Lipinski is continuing to thrive in an incredibly difficult industry to thrive in. Surprised? You shouldn’t be; Lipinski has always made difficult tasks look easy.