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Tara Lipinski Winter's Youngest Champion

Tara Lipinski  Winter's Youngest Champion

When a 15-year-old Tara Lipinski won an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, she broke a 70-year-old record to become the youngest athlete to ever win gold in the Winter Games.

And while this does stand as a very impressive feat for someone so young, Lipinski was already a very seasoned competitor heading into the Games at Nagano. Lipinski would face fierce competition en route to the Olympics, including a match for the ages in the final event of her competition.

Tara Lipinski

Born on June 10, 1982 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tara Kristen Lipinski is a retired figure skater who won multiple Champions Series titles, a World Championship, a US Championship, and an Olympic Gold Medal, all before the age of 16. She grew up a fan of figure skating, moving around from state to state.

When she entered the arena as a young child as a roller skater, she immediately began winning competitions and ultimately branched out to figure skating, her first love.

After moving to Delaware and then to Detroit, Lipinski hooked up with a trainer and began gearing up for figure skating competitions. After winning the Olympic Festival competition in 1994, Lipinski became the new skater to watch in the American landscape, succeeding such greats as Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan, and competing alongside the likes of Michelle Kwan.

Lipinski's Edging Out a Gold at Nagano

Heading into the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the buzz surrounding Tara Lipinski was incredible. She was fresh off of a World Championship win, becoming the youngest competitor in history win the title. The world wanted to know if she could duplicate those results to become the youngest Olympic Gold Medalist in Winter Games' history. However, there was a lot of fierce competition in her way. Not only was Michelle Kwan, a fellow American, a very fierce competitor, but China's Chen Lu was in the '98 games, more determined than ever to win gold after losing out to Kerrigan and Baiul in the '94 Lillehammer Games.

Tara's back was up against the wall, and not of her own doing. It was the media at large who put such heavy expectations on her young shoulders, and it was obvious that Lipinski was feeling the pressure. The experts who follow figure skating predicted that Lipinski would finish with the silver medal, just behind Kwan's gold, but that wasn't the narrative being pushed at large. Through media's eyes, it was a gold medal or bust.

After the short program portion of the competition, Kwan was not surprisingly in the lead, with Tara trailing behind. Michelle had put on a fantastic exhibition of skating, landing her jumps and gracefully switching through moves on the ice for a great score. Tara's program was also free or blatant errors and very graceful, but Kwan still exhibited a higher level of difficulty throughout the routine. When the long program portion began, Lipinski would need roughly 2/3 of the judges to give her first place votes to overtake Kwan, and that's assuming Kwan didn't skate nearly as well as she did in the short round.

During the long program, Lipinski out-skated the entire field, including Michelle Kwan, by quite a large margin, earning 6 first place votes out of 9 judges. This wasn't a dominating win in totality, but Tara was still able to squeak by Kwan for the Olympic Gold Medal. The win made Lipinski the youngest athlete to ever win a singles gold medal, breaking a record held for 70 years by Sonia Henie.

Lipinski immediately became the darling of the Olympics. She was absolutely floored that she had won, having no idea whatsoever that she could even come close to overtaking Kwan's position. And while Kwan was very graceful in defeat, she was obviously upset, having overcome many hurdles herself to get to that point. No one has yet to come close to touching Tara's record, and it may be a long time before another athlete so young even competes on that level.

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