Tara Lipinski: Triumph on Iceby Tara Lipinski
The world title...the U.S. national title...the Olympic Gold Medal...Tara Lipinski took the skating world by storm when she captured the gold at both prestigious championships at age 14. Now Tara reigns as today's youngest and most spectacular figure skating champion. Her dazzling triple loop-triple loop combinationthe first ever performed by a woman or a man in competitionhas become her trademark jump. And Tara's artistry and exuberance always shine through. At every performance, the crowd goes wild! Overnight, Tara Lipinski has become the adored star of figure skating.
In her autobiography, Triumph On Ice, Tara talks about her love of skating; the hours of practice, her friend Todd Eldredge and their coach Richard Callaghan; her family; and her many accomplishments outside the skating world. Tara Lipinski's enormous talent and golden triumphs have propelled her to figure skating's premier spot. As the song she uses in her favorite exhibition routine says, she's "walking on sunshine."
- Random House Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.18(w) x 6.85(h) x 0.46(d)
Read an Excerpt
I was a bundle of nerves at the 1997 Nationals!
Being nervous goes hand in hand with competing, but when my parents, Mr. Callaghan, and I got to Nashville for the competition, I was super nervous. To help calm myself down, I did all the stuff I usually do to get readychecked over my dresses, talked to my friends, and visualized my programs in my mind. Doing that stuff usually soothes my nerves and helps me focus. But this time it wasn't working.
On the Wednesday before the competition, I went to the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital to visit. Since it was right before Valentine's Day, I brought little valentines to pass out. The kids loved it. l was the only one having a hard time relaxing and enjoying myself.
I kept thinking about the competition. All the top American women in the sport had gathered in Nashville, and Mr. Callaghan thought four of us had a good chance at the top three spots: Nicole Bobek, Michelle Kwan, Tonia Kwiatkowski (who had finished eighth in the world the year before), and me. To make the World team, I was going to have to skate better than at least one of them.
For some reason, I got more and more nervous. I'm not quite sure where that feeling came from. My training in Detroit couldn't have been stronger. I had done well in the fall championship series. And I had been skating well in practice all week. Still, I just couldn't calm down.
On Fridaythe day we were supposed to skate the short programMr. Callaghan spent extra time talking to me. I was beyond precompetition jitters. I was so nervous I thought something might be wrong with me.
Mr. Callaghan assured me nothing was wrong. Hereminded me that I'd been nervous at the Nationals the year before. It was normal. As with every Nationals, it was time to test my technical, artistic, and mental abilities against those of the best American skaters.
Mr. Callaghan also told me that being nervous might even help me skate better.
Our talk reassured me, and I was determined to keep my nerves under control.
A phone call I received also helped. It was from the famous gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. Mr. Karolyi phoned me at my hotel that afternoon. His advice sounded a lot like Mr. Callaghan'she told me to just go out and skate the way I had every day in practice. It was an honor to talk to him, and knowing that he and so many people were behind me helped put me in a much better mental state.
Being in the right mental state when you're competing is crucial. And even though spectators always think I seem calm and collected when the pressure is on, controlling my emotions is something I'm still struggling with. For example, I've learned that it's important for me to have a goal when I go into a competition. Without one, I don't try my hardest. At the Nationals, my goal was to come in third.
But if I'm too focused on my goal, I get all nervous and my muscles tense up and nothing works. So while I try to set a goal and push myself to meet it, I also try to remember that I'll always have another chance.
By the time Friday night finally rolled around, I was much calmer. I kept reminding myself that if I didn't come in third, there would always be next year. I skated my short program, and it went really smoothly. I was so glad to be finished with the first part of the competition. My scores were pretty good, too. I ended up in second place.
On Saturday the pace of the competition picked up. The men skated their long programs in the afternoon. Todd placed first after the short program and held on to win the men's title after the long program. I was really proud of him, but he wasn't happy with his performance. He really is a perfectionist! I think Todd skated great, but I respect him for having such high standards.
After the men finished, I started to get ready for my long program.
By the time the first of the women glided onto the ice, the Nashville Arena was packed with sixteen thousand extremely enthusiastic spectators. ABC Sports was covering the event. Television viewers across the nation were tuned in. My parents were theresomewhere up in the sold-out stands. Todd was watching on a television monitor in the athletes' lounge.
I was in a very up mood. My second-place finish the day before had boosted my confidence. I had the usual competition nervousness, but the extreme jitters I'd experienced earlier in the week were gone.
I reminded myself that if I wanted to go to the Worlds, I'd have to nail my long program. Even though I was currently in second place, Nicole, Tonia, and plenty of other terrific skaters would be trying to slip by me and snag the chance to go to Switzerland. There was no room for mistakes.
After we had all warmed up, I changed back into my running shoes. I had to skate last in my group, which for me isn't the greatest. I prefer to skate earlier, but I tried not to worry about it.
While the other competitors took their turns, I hung out in the locker room. I jogged in place to keep my muscles warm. And I tried to stay focused. Todd came out of the skaters' lounge. "It's just like every day in practice," he told me. "Go out and do your thing and you'll be fine."
"Thanks," I whispered, grateful for his advice and encouragement.
Finally it was almost my turn. I walked over to the ice. When I got to the boards, Michelle had just finished skating. As she came off the ice, I noticed that she didn't look at all happy.
Mr. Callaghan hurried up to me. "Okay, Tara," he said. "Just pretend it's another day at the rink."
I nodded. Mr. Callaghan always tells me the same thing right before I compete. It helps, but it's hard to pretend it's just another day at the rink when sixteen thousand people are crowded into the stands.
I started to step onto the ice, but Mr. Callaghan pulled me back.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Just wait a second," he replied.
I noticed what was bothering him. The crowd was booing.
"They're not booing at you," Mr. Callaghan reassured me.
No, it seemed as if the crowd was reacting to Michelle's scores, which had just come up. I looked at them too. They weren't great, and I was a little confused. (Later I found out that Michelle had fallen three times during her program. She'd had a bad day.)
Of course, I knew instantly what that meant. If I skated really well, I might win!
Mr. Callaghan seemed to read my mind. "Don't try to win," he told me firmly. "Just do your work."
His words didn't surprise me. I remembered my experience at the Worlds the year before, when I'd gotten distracted by my thoughts about beating Midori Ito, had pushed too hard, had ruined the timing of my jumps, and had landed on my backsideseveral times. Big mistake.
So I tried to put the chance of winning out of my mind, and instead I concentrated on my program. When the crowd calmed down, I glided onto the ice. My music began to play. I started to skate.
My first jump was a double axel. I brought my arms in and my right leg up and thrust myself into the air. Tucking in tight, I spun around two and a half times before I came down.
My triple flip was next. It was huge! By then I was getting into the rhythm of my program. That jump felt perfect. And the audience rewarded me by clapping loudly.
Next came my triple Lutz-double toe loop. I nailed it!
The tempo of my music slowed. I had time to catch my breath. But I couldn't relax yet. My next jump was a tricky one: the triple loop-triple loop combination.
I pushed off the edge of my skate and flew into the first triple loop. I came down cleanly. So far, so good. Almost immediately I pushed off into my second jump, spun around one, two, three times, and landed solidly.
A cheer went up from the crowd. I started to smile. My program was going really well. And the crowd's support kept me psyched.
The rest of my program went by in a blur, but every jump and spin felt good. When I finished, the crowd went wild. They rose to their feet and applauded madly. It was a moment I'll never forget.
I was ecstatic. I had skated my very best.
Mr. Callaghan was waiting for me at the edge of the ice. "Great job, Tara!" he told me.
"Thanks," I said, beaming.
We walked over to the kiss and cry area, the nickname skaters have for the bench where you wait for your scores. We call it that because if you've skated well, everyone kisses each other; if you've skated badly, everyone cries.
Pretty soon my scores came up. At first I couldn't believe them! None of the judges gave me a mark lower than 5.8. Plus, I'd earned six technical marks of 5.9 and three artistic 5.9s. In other words...
I'd won! I was the new U.S. Ladies Singles Champion!
From the Paperback edition.
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