Cultural funding

Tara Lipinski talks figure skating, the Olympics and a new career

Twenty years ago, Tara Lipinski reached the pinnacle of figure skating with an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics when she was just 15 years old.

As his peers navigated their awkward teenage years with decades to go until they reached the pinnacle of their future careers, Lipinski was already wondering what was next. “For me at the time, as a skater, I dreamed of what would happen after the Olympics,” she told Money.

It’s a common problem that plagues figure skaters and other athletes who excel in their sport before they are of voting or drinking age. But Lipinski, who became the youngest athlete to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics with her victory in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, has finally found her “second dream”, as she calls it.

Now she’s a sportscaster whose work at the Winter Olympics with former figure skater Johnny Weir has taken the country by storm. The exuberant duo’s commentary for NBC’s Olympic coverage began in 2014 in Sochi and continued in prime time at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, alongside NBC Sports’ Terry Gannon . With dazzling helmets and coordinated outfits, Lipinski and Weir will also host the 2018 Closing Ceremony on Sunday — another big step into the world of broadcasting that extends beyond their figure skating expertise.

“For my so-called second career, I needed to find something that gave me the same adrenaline rush,” Lipinski said.

“For live TV, you feel the same adrenaline rush, the same excitement before you sit in the booth or jump back right before you get the ice cream,” she added. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Now 35, Lipinski has enjoyed many career highs and the opportunity to transfer her skills as a competitive athlete to broadcasting – a career with longer legs than professional skating.

Broadcasting wasn’t an obvious next step for Lipinski, but her transition out of her competitive career got her there. After her Olympic gold medal, Lipinski toured with some of her idols like Scott Hamilton and Kristi Yamaguchi and in the process learned more about how to be a performer on the ice.

Indeed, Lipinski was a competitive figure skater at perhaps the peak of sports popularity in American culture, opening doors for her post-Olympics that might not have been available otherwise. Her Olympic gold medal came four years after the infamous Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal that resulted in the highest ratings for figure skating at the Olympics to date. And Lipinski’s own rivalry with Michelle Kwan (although less outrageous) has also captivated audiences. The on-ice rivalries have continued since Lipinski hung up his skates – with Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva’s showdown taking place on Thursday night at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Filming on ice, however, was something Lipinski didn’t want to do long term. “I woke up one day and realized I was almost 22, and I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life,” Lipinski said. “I felt like it was time to change lanes.”

After two years of acting and hosting gigs, Lipinski was eyeing the work of Hamilton, the decorated figure skater who had his own broadcast career, and former NBC Olympics staple Bob Costas. “I could still be a part of a sport that I love so much, but in a different way,” she said at the time.

But trying it wasn’t without risk: “When I started commenting I put these headphones on and I could have been awful and I should have gone back to the drawing board and figured out what was next. “, Lipinski mentioned.

She started with a gig at Ice Network, then moved on to CBS. From there, she headed to NBC Sports, where she befriended Weir, who she wasn’t originally supposed to work with as a broadcast team. When they realized they were a good fit, they pitched the idea of ​​them as a broadcast team to NBC for the 2014 Sochi Olympics — and their joint careers took off from there.

“I think it was kind of meant to be,” Lipinski said of their partnership. (Weir was also at Lipinski’s wedding party when she married sports producer Todd Kapostasy last year.)

The network featured them on their shows of events outside of figure skating, including the Oscars, Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl and more, taking their career to a new level.

But that kind of success may not be typical of Olympic athletes and medalists. Indeed, a number of athletes work full-time or part-time while competing just to make ends meet. 2018 Winter Olympics stars like Adam Rippon shared stories of his financial struggles throughout his training years, but now they risk being inundated with sponsorship deals and, possibly, concerts broadcast. (In fact, he recently turned down a gig with NBC Sports for the rest of the Games.) But figuring out what’s best for an athlete’s career after the peak of competition, Lipinski says, can take time.

“Sometimes you don’t jump into the next thing,” Lipinski said. “You can’t work hard and dedicate your life to a job without completely loving it. Wait. Figure out what you like and what you can be good at.

And for Lipinski, her second dream, as she calls it, is far from over.