TV Interview: Tara Lipinski (Universal Sports)

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by Rock ‘n Roll Ghost

Tara Lipinski

Tara Lipinski has joined Universal Sports as a commentator for the upcoming Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series as well as the World Championships.  Along with co-hosts Terry Gannon and Michael Weiss, Lipinski will take her many years of personal and professional experience on the ice to the TV world for the first time.  Lipinski, who did some commentating for the Ice Network in 2009, will continue with Universal Sports through March of 2011.  Lipinski, beating out Michelle Kwan at age 15 to win the gold medal at the Nagano Olympic Games, is the youngest woman to ever win and is also one of only seven female Olympic gold medalists from the United States.

Rock ‘n Roll Ghost talked to Lipinski recently by phone and the below is an edited transcription of that conversation.

Tara Lipinski

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir (courtesy of Life)

Rock ‘n Roll Ghost: Tell me about what you’re going to be doing on the network and what you’re looking forward to.

Tara Lipinski: Last year I really decided to pursue a career in commentating. I started with Ice Network, one of our organization’s networks.  I had a blast.  I got on there and I loved it and felt at home.  I could see the second half of my career in skating being there.  I was lucky enough to work with Universal for the World Championship this past March.  Eventually I would love to be there full time.  So I’m really excited about this next year expanding my role with the Grand Prixs (of Figure Skating Series) for Universal and seeing what else will come from that.

What will you start off doing for the network?

Tara Lipinski: I will be the ladies analyst.  Anything to do with the Grand Prixs and the ladies.  The Grand Prixs – there are about five of them and they take the best skaters from all over the world.  They’re taking the scores of the placements and then there’s the Grand Prix finals that takes the top six skaters and then they compete for the final – which is usually in December.  Then you have your nationals which is for American ladies and the outcome of that who’s going to the World Championships.

I obviously competed my entire life and the reason I wanted to skate, was for the Olympics and competition, and at 15 I turned pro because I wanted to see the other side of skating.  At 22 I decided I needed a little break, but I always knew I’d go back to skating in some form.  I decided when I was watching a lot of events how much I really loved the competition.  So now to be back involved in some way with the amateur ranks is exciting.

I know you had an injury, you haven’t skated since 2002, correct?

Tara Lipinski: I haven’t professionally.  There’s a bit of a misconception with the injury.  The injury never prevented me from skating.  A lot of people think that was the reason I stopped, but it wasn’t.  Thank God for the surgery because I probably wouldn’t have skated for the next three or four years like I did.  I was on the ice at 3 years old and I’m a firm believer that you’re not so extremely excited to get up and do in the morning.  I loved skating all of that time.  I thought that I wanted to have a normal life if I can.  I never had a home base.  I just wanted a few years off.  I missed skating the moment I decided not to go on tour because I loved performing.  I was touring with Stars On Ice.  But it was also a good break to see the world and be somewhat normal.  But then the itch got to be too much and I was like ‘I have to be back involved.  I need to be back in skating.’

What prompted you to pursue acting?

Tara Lipinski: That’s another thing.  A lot of people thought I stopped skating to pursue that career.  Skating is my first love and it will be my last love.  I realized I really felt comfortable being on the creative side.  It coincided with people asking me to do cameos and television spots.  I did an independent film in Paris.  It felt strangely similar to my skating career. Vastly different in ways and strangely similar in other ways.  Never to the point of making that my career.  But when opportunities came along or there were chances for me to see what could happen I definitely did that.  It’s fun for me.  It’s a challenge.

Tara Lipinski at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games

You mentioned that you were on the ice since the age of 3.  Was that when you started to compete?

Tara Lipinski: No, no.  That’s back when I was living in (New) Jersey and was involved in a million different sports.  I think that I played everything from soccer and gymnastics.  I was very active and I was the type of kid that, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t want to go back.  I started roller skating at 3.  It was very social and fun and I didn’t want to stop.  That led into ice skating.  It was just this rolling ball that just keeps going.  You start for just having fun and skating around with your friends.  Then you take one lesson that turns into five lessons a week that turns into one competition that turns into you competing.

Is this something that you would say happened organically?

Tara Lipinski: Yes.

Because you hear horror stories of parents pushing children.

Tara Lipinski: For me it wasn’t.  I’ve always just done what I wanted and what I believed in.  My parents laugh at how stubborn I am.  Thank goodness that they took me to the rink with my girlfriend because I love it so much.  I definitely couldn’t be forced into doing something.

Do you feel as if it was destiny?

Tara Lipinski: I do!  I look back at all the things that lined up just perfectly like, ‘How did that happen?’.  In a way I was always veered away from it.  My dad thought I was going to be a doctor or a lawyer and they tried their hardest to get me away from it.  So I look back at it like every decision I made it had to be fate.

Going back to commentating – to prepare for that, do you go to some sort of schooling that the network sends you on?

Tara Lipinski: I talked to a friend that I have that’s in that world.  Yeah, there are classes and things that you can take.  But when I first started it came up very quickly that I had to make my decision.  I think you just have to have a feel for it.  You have to research and know your sport and that you have to like it and feel comfortable.  No, I haven’t done any training.  I sort of winged it the first time and I was like, ‘alright, things seem to be going okay.’

At the very first I was thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve been in front of a camera since I was 12 years old,’ and then they put on the headphones and I’m like, ‘Oh my god! Oh my god! I have no idea what I’m doing.’

Tara Lipinski

Then there’s someone talking in your ear…

Tara Lipinski: Yeah, they’re talking in your ear.  You have to know when to talk.  You have to know when not to talk.

So that obviously worked itself out pretty quickly, then?

Tara Lipinski: It did.  Like I said, I winged it (laughs).

You mentioned choreographing before, do you see yourself doing that in the future?

Tara Lipinski: I never thought that I would be a good coach.  Just because I felt that a lot of what I do (is based on a sense of) feel.  The coaches that I had were so talented and so amazing to get things across and to be there for you every day and not to lose their patience and so forth. But choreographing is more entertainment driven, more artistic, it’s more creative, which is the part of skating that I love.  It has a story behind it.  I just really enjoy doing that.  You look at every choreographer and they have their own sense of style and you can actually pick (them) out.  What’s fun is that I just saw myself in the program and watching someone else take my little isms, if you will.  It’s was really fun to think that it is sort of continuing in a way

Official Tara Lipinski Website

Official Universal Sports Website

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