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Tara Lipinski

Olympic Gold Medalist

At the 1998 U.S. National Championship in Philadelphia, Lipinski made a rare mistake when she failed to land her triple flip jump in the short program, which put her into fourth place. Although she responded with a clean long program in the free skate, Michelle Kwan took the national title with a performance that ranked as one of the best in the history of the sport. Given Kwan's amazing performance at the event, she was immediately considered the favorite going into the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. For her part, Lipinski was glad to enter the event as an underdog, which motivated her to deliver a performance in the long program at the Games that ranked as the most impressive jumping display ever seen in a women's free skate to that time. In addition to her triple-loop, triple-loop combination jump, Lipinski ended with a triple-salchow, half-loop, triple toe loop combination. Out of nine judges, six ranked Lipinski ahead of Kwan; in winning the gold medal, Lipinski became the youngest-ever Olympic champion in the event, a distinction previously held by Sonia Henie. Although most figure skating commentators had predicted that Kwan would win if she skated a clean program, as indeed she did, their predictions did not hold true in light of Lipinski's inspired performance.

With the USFSA setting minimum age requirements for competition in the senior ranks, Lipinski's place in figure skating history as the youngest-ever American and Olympic champion would remain in the record books forever. Indeed, Lipinski's very success at such a young age fueled the drive to change USFSA rules. Although she was universally praised for her jumping ability, some critics argued that Lipinski was pushing the sport away from its artistic side in favor of putting on mere technical displays of triple jumps. Even with the rule changes, however, the trend favoring teenaged skaters with impressive triple jumps continued. In the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, sixteen-year-old Sarah Hughes won the gold medal by performing two triple-jump combinations, a feat the surpassed even Lipinski's performance four years before.

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Famous Sports StarsFigure SkatingTara Lipinski Biography - Figure Skating Prodigy, Endured Family Separations, Chronology, Won National And World Titles, Awards And Accomplishments - SELECTED WRITINGS BY LIPINSKI: