On February 20, 1998, 15-year-old Tara Lipinski wins the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and becomes the youngest gold medalist in her sport.
Lipinski donned her first pair of skates at age six. In 1994, at age 12, she won a gold medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival, a junior-level competition. In 1997, Lipinski, then 14, took first place at both the national and world figure skating championships, beating out her American rival and perennial fan favorite, Michelle Kwan. Lipinski was the youngest person ever to take home either title. At the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Lipinski and teammate Michelle Kwan were both considered favorites for the gold medal. Earlier that season, the diminutive Lipinski, known for her energetic jumps, had been defeated twice in competition by Kwan, who was considered the more artistic skater of the two. Both Kwan and Lipinski turned in strong performances; however, Lipinski’s program was considered more technically difficult and she was awarded the gold medal. Kwan took home the silver medal and China’s Chen Lu won the bronze. Lipinski, then 15, was the youngest person in figure skating history to capture Olympic gold. (At the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, 16-year-old Oksana Baiul from Ukraine won the gold in women’s figure skating.)
In April 1998, Lipinski announced she was turning professional. She went on to perform in skating shows such as “Stars on Ice” and also pursued an acting career. In 2006, she was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.