Here's What Really Happened To Tara Lipinski

In 1998, 15-year-old Tara Lipinski wowed audiences and homes around the world when she took the gold medal in the Nagano Olympic Games. Lipinski and her fellow skater Michelle Kwan were both heavily favored for the award, and her nearly flawless and technically more difficult routine won her the top honor. 

Before that 1998 victory, Lipinski was a regular kid with a supernatural ability to absolutely slay on both the roller and ice skating rink. As Cosmopolitan shares, she began roller skating at the age of three after her mom enrolled her in classes; she was soon competing in roller skating shows and discovered that she loved competing publicly. She moved on to ice skating at the age of six, telling the publication, "I know I get all skate-nerdy, but [even back then] the smell of a rink, even the Zamboni fumes, was magical."

Following her 1998 win, Lipinski tried her hand at acting and activism, even joining a campaign that encouraged young athletes not to smoke. These days, she's a happily married woman who has moved into executive producing, and who often links up with her commentating partner-in-crime Johnny Weir to delight audiences each Olympic season. Here's a look at where Lipinski has been — and where she's headed.

Tara Lipinski had a major moment at the 1998 Olympics

In February 1998, Tara Lipinski was a 15-year-old figure skater preparing to make her debut at the biggest international sporting event: the Winter Olympics, which were held in Nagano, Japan. In the previous year, Lipinski had wowed fans of the sport when she beat out then-rival Michelle Kwan at both the national and world competition levels, but Kwan was still the favorite for gold ahead of the Olympic Games (via History).

When she skated onto the ice that night, Lipinski was ranked in second place. Both women performed incredibly that night, with Lipinski nailing a routine that was technically more difficult, leading to her becoming the youngest person ever in figure skating to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. The footage captured of Lipinski waiting for her score is tense, but the game is all over when her second score of 5.8 comes in and pushes her over the top.

Many were surprised when, in April 1998, Lipinski announced her decision to turn professional and eschew another shot at Olympic glory, but she later revealed that an ongoing hip injury had forced her out of elite-level competition (per CBC News).

The skater went professional shortly after her 1998 win

After announcing her decision to turn to professional figure skating following the 1998 Olympics, Lipinski joined that year's 90-city Champions on Ice tour. This was followed by a stint on Stars on Ice, later telling Cosmopolitan that taking on back-to-back professional tours was a lot. She explained, "I definitely had times where like I was like, this is a lot of work. But, as much as it was lonely in those moments, it was one of the best times in my life, being a new Olympic champion."

Eventually, she realized that there was more to life than skating tours and decided to step back from the rink completely. As she told Cosmopolitan, for someone who had only taken four days off in her life, being able to take many days off in a row was a true thrill. She said, "I decided to take a break and officially stop skating. I had my first real relationship, went on vacations, and just experienced life." 

Her decision to take time off was brought on by a torn hip cartilage that she finally addressed surgically. While she was worried about the consequences of the procedure, the consequences of not undergoing it were even more dire. As she told Canada's CBC News, by the time she underwent surgery, Lipinski had cartilage overgrowing the bone. In the end, she was able to return to the ice casually, but certainly unable to compete at the Olympic level.

Tara Lipinski has an activist streak

Ice skating isn't all that Tara Lipinski has turned her energy and her mind to. Soon after the 1998 Olympic Games, she began campaigning against smoking, visiting schools around the United States and encouraging students to steer clear of cigarettes. While visiting a school in Baltimore at the time, Lipinski imparted some pretty serious information: "The fact is that if someone does not become a smoker by the age of 19, they will likely never begin this unhealthy — and potentially deadly — habit" (via the Baltimore Sun).

The following year Lipinski partnered with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids again as part of its 10-city figure skating clinic event. The goal of the clinic event was two-fold: to help train young skaters, and to encourage them to stay away from smoking completely. Lipinski was such an effective speaker at the events that she even ended up invited to the White House by then-President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore (per Tobacco Free Kids).

The Olympian also tried acting

In the years that followed the Olympic, Tara Lipinski spent most of her time on the ice in professional shows ... but she also tried her hand at Hollywood, and even signed a long-term contract with CBS to host skating specials and to appear in several shows. These included the network's hallmarks "Touched By an Angel" and "The Young and the Restless" (via Cosmopolitan).

Lipinski also had cameo roles in a few other shows, including "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" on Nickelodeon, and even a part in the film "Vanilla Sky." Eventually, she realized that the job just "wasn't my thing," but that wasn't for lack of trying. As she later told Aunt Joyce's Ice Cream Stand in 2011, she treated the job as if it was just as important as any other thing she had set her mind to. She explained, "To be honest, I wasn't sure that I wanted to do it initially. Once I started doing it, I took it very seriously. I filmed a couple days a week. I was an outsider, so I didn't know everyone, but it was a good experience."

In 2009, Tara Lipinski re-entered the skating world

After taking several years off to essentially just live her life like the rest of us, Tara Lipinski realized she still felt drawn to the ice. That makes sense, as she had been calling ice rinks home since she was incredibly young. Knowing her skating days were behind her, Lipinski turned her sights onto another role: commentating. Cosmopolitan shares that in 2009, she rang up the team at IceNetwork and basically asked for a job; within three years, she was commentating for NBC Sports and NBC Universal. 

Lipinski told Sports Illustrated that becoming a figure skating analyst was something she literally woke up one day and knew she had to do, despite the fact that, as she puts it, "You only have two people and they usually sit in those seats for a long time." So she took the long road, and worked through the ranks at various networks until she found herself commentating the women's event alongside NBC sportscaster Terry Gannon on the same day that fellow former figure skater Johnny Weir was commentating the men's event with Gannon — and the pair realized they should work together.

And thus, a truly genius commentating team was born. They proposed their pairing to NBC, who gave them a trial. As Lipinski told GQ, that was all they needed. She said, "Within that next year we went to Sochi, and on air and off air we just started to bond."

In 2017, she married producer Todd Kapostasy

Tara Lipinski's adult life hasn't been all commentating and acting side-gigs. In 2017, she married her boyfriend of two years, sports producer Todd Kapostasy. As People noted, the pair both wrote their own vows, which they read underneath a gigantic canopy made up of roses and hydrangeas. Lipinski told the publication that her wedding day was the absolute best day she's ever had in her life, before adding, "Obviously winning an Olympic gold medal for my country in 1998 was a very proud moment for me, but nothing competes with finding someone you love to spend the rest of your life with!"

Lipinski's best friend and co-commentator Johnny Weir served as her "bridesman" for the day, and several of the biggest names from the ice skating world were in attendance as guests, including former skater Scott Hamilton and sportscaster Dan Patrick. Lipinski and Kapostasy took 40 full days to enjoy their honeymoon, where they spent time in several countries, including Greece and Switzerland.

Tara Lipinski now works as an executive producer

In 2021, Tara Lipinski stepped into her husband's arena when she waded into the world of executive producing. Lipinski announced she would serve as the executive producer for the four-part docuseries "Meddling," which takes a deep dive into the 2002 Winter Olympics scandal involving Russian skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze and Canadian skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier.

Lipinski told People that one reason she took on the project is that in the 20 years since the dramatic event, there hasn't really been a second look back at what exactly happened. The short version is this: Salé and Pelletier were thought by many to be the winners of the gold medal, which ended up being awarded to Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze instead. Lipinski told E! News that the final vote came down to one judge: "It came down to that swing vote and it was the French judge and that's all there was to it."

Luckily, Lipinski's own experience on the ice makes her a natural for executive producing the docuseries. As she told Forbes, she has spent most of her life in front of a camera in one way or another, so "the entertainment industry has always come second nature to me."