Sunday Interview Show with Joseph Dzidrums - Episode 43: Tara Lipinski

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I was the host and interviewer for the SkateRadio Sunday Interview Show, where I interviewed numerous legendary sports figures, like Brian Boitano, Katarina Witt, Oksana Baiul, Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski, Michelle Kwan, and Bela Karolyi.

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Middle Aged (35-54)


Note: Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors.
Hi, Tara. Thanks for joining us on SkateRadio. Thank you. How are you enjoying your summer so far? Um, well, I'm actually having a wonderful summer. It's my first summer in South Carolina in my new home that I've been building for a long time. And, um, my life kind of seems like, you know, it's taking lots of twists and turns, but I'm enjoying every part of it. Great. How are your auditions going? They're going well. I mean, this, that's one of the, the big new things in my life is acting and, um, it, it takes a long time to get into it and, and to be respected in a community like this. So it finally feels like things are, are picking up and it, and it's exciting for me to go out and, and get such feedback or also, you know, get to work in what ways has being a skater helped you in pursuing an acting career. Well, skating, obviously, especially touring professionally with stars on ice has given me the opportunity to act on ice. It's like a theater out there and that's what I think sparked my, you know, my, my passion for acting and um it helps me tremendously also though, you know, there's some parts being Tara Lepinski, you have to break through that type cast of being pigeonholed as a skater, which of your acting performances thus far are you most proud of acting? Um I'd have to say I did an independent film in Paris last summer that, you know, was, it was pretty cool. Um And I like anything now that, you know, gives me a chance to really show that, you know, I have been working at this, that I have a coach, things like that. Um, but I'd have to say there's been so many memorable ones. Each one you meet so many incredible people. How did you enjoy your fourth season with Stars on Ice? Oh, well, I mean, that's kind of for me home, my life just to be able to perform for an audience. And now every year I come back, I feel like I know those people in each city. So I feel like every year I kind of feel at home with them even more. So it, it's very comfortable for me and I feel like I can really expand and trying new things. Now, when you were a young girl, did you get the chance to watch stars and ice at all? I did, I actually have pictures of myself, you know, in a little pink dress with a big hat on and like nine years old, like trying to get an autograph and, um, it was pretty exciting. What was it, like closing the show this year? Incredible. You know, it took four years, um, of, of hard work and watching so many great skaters out there and then I couldn't even believe that, you know, I was in that position. You know, it's, it's crazy to think about it, but like I said, I feel like I know the audience now and, um, I think as I keep skating, it's, it's gonna even feel more at home for me. Do you still get nervous while waiting to perform? I do you know, you learn how to deal with it better than when you're 13 and you're shoved on to a world team. But, um, yeah, I do, I think you just want to do well for yourself and of course you go out and you stand there and there's all these people that you're gonna, no matter what, get a little nervous. Sure. Now we're gonna take you through your skating career now, chronologically 96 nationals. This was your first senior nationals and you finished third. Did you think in the back of your mind that you had a shot at the world team? I didn't at all because I just, um, changed coaches and my life was kind of in turmoil at that point and I just kind of went there and skated and I was like, oh my God, how did I end up third? You know, it's just like everyone's so good. How did I get into this pack? And then to realize that I made a world team, I was in shock. Really? Now, you had to skate earlier than anticipated because Nicole Bobick dropped out unexpectedly. Now that didn't seem to faze you. Um I do remember the time it kind of puts you in that position of like, oh my God, this is not normal, you know, like, what am I doing? And, but you just have to stay under control and, and, you know, I look back now, I just went out and did my thing. How were you able to keep your, uh, your composure? Well, my coaches and, and my parents, I think, you know, especially at that time, you just, you look for your support system and when they say it's ok, it's ok. So you just do it wonderful. Now at worlds in that same year, uh your comeback after the short program at the 96 World has been cited by many skaters as a source of inspiration for them. What inspired you that night, that night was to show everyone that I deserved to be there, you know, because I went out in the short and that it was new for me and it just was a bad day and everyone has them and I wasn't going to leave a competition showing that it was the entire competition. And I remember just putting it out there on practice, you know, right before the long program and saying, OK, I see. I'm out here with Lou Chen who's, you know, gonna almost win this thing and, you know, I'm gonna have a shot too, you know, I'm gonna go out there and show them what I can do and I just had that determination. I was just mad. I was like, I'm gonna, it's not fair. I deserve it. I can do it. Now, 97 nationals. Did you have any idea that you could win that competition? No. Um Obviously, I felt that, you know, I being there, I had a chance at the world team again. Um But at the same time, I remember being very nervous because that can slip away so fast. Um But I did not think I could win with Michelle there at the time. Was your life ever the same after you won your first national title? No, never was the same. That kind of, you know, it just puts you on the map, it tells people, ok, now she has a shot at anything which was great for me because it gave me the opportunity to work hard. And if my work was good, then, you know, I had the chance. How long did you work on your triple toe, triple, um your triple loop, triple loop before it became consistent for you? It took a while. I mean, for, for me, it was, you know, just doing it for fun one day and all of a sudden I landed it and then it's like, then you try it again and you can't do it. But then since you already did it once you're like, well, I can do it. So, you know, it took a while. But, you know, it's just for me, consistency was a big, um, important part of my skating. So, every day I did a lot of jumps and it takes a toll on the body. But um it was worth it. What kind of support team have you had throughout your competitive career? Um I've had incredible support and I would have to say I owe it all to my parents. Um I know there's no way I could have done any of it without them, especially my mom since, you know, she gave up so much moving away from me. And, you know, there's so many misconceptions about parents in sports. And um I'd have to say my mom was the exception. She was incredible. She was always there for me no matter what, she never pushed me too hard. But, you know, when you have those bad days, she was always there to comfort me. She still is. You know, I have a bad day. I call her, she knows what to say. Now, 97 worlds, did you enter that competition with the mindset that you could win there? Now, going to 97 worlds, I was kind of like, wow, I'm, I'm doing ok here. You know, I, I do have a shot. Um It didn't feel like a probable shot but I said, you know what I could do it. So go out there and, and show my stuff. Now, one of the things that we really admire about you is that after you won the gold medal, you continued to upgrade your technical level of your skating. Why was that important to you? Well, that was kind of my key um because the other skaters were not doing as difficult technical jumps at the time and that really set me apart because I was so young. So I knew that was what I needed to keep improving on. Mhm Now, at the 98 Champions Series final, we think this is one of your most underrated performances ever, particularly in the long program where you had to skate after a perfect Tanya Senko who made an incredible comeback in her in front of her home country. Was this the most difficult performance that you've ever had to follow? It? It was not the most difficult one, but it was very high up there. And I remember thinking for the first time like this is just, this is gonna be a bad night because, you know, I don't know how I'm gonna do this. I'm in Germany, she just skated, you know, the performance of her life. I wanted to come back and just, you know, win that competition. And um I remember just being so incredibly nervous and hearing those marks, which is, you know, discouraging to, to, to think at the time like, oh they got, they didn't leave any, any room. But you know, the thing that changed my mind, I remember Circling saying it's not about winning, you know, it is because you want to, but I'd be a lot happier if I went out and skated a good program and lost and skated a bad program trying to win. Now at the 98 Olympics, uh, you had so much fun at, at the Olympic Games and really soaked up the experience. Was this a conscious decision or did it just kind of fall into place? Um, it was conscious to know that I want to do. I've always kind of been that way. A little stubborn in my ways that I wanted to enjoy what I do. I mean, skating to me has never been a chore. I, you know, my parents always let me have fun and never took things away from me socially. Um, whereas sometimes that happens in a sport and, you know, some of the coaches were telling me you can't go that early, you gotta stay here, you gotta do that. But I wanted to, it's like you, you miss out and that's why I also feel turning pro. You know, I, I don't regret anything. I don't have anything that I missed out on you know, I enjoyed every moment, every part of it. And I think that's ultimately what helped me keep my nerves, you know, so calm. Now, I asked the same question to Brian Boitano. It's night before your Olympic long program. How did you simply just calm down and get a good night's sleep? Um, you know, it's, it's hard, but for me, I'm a, I'm a good sleeper but I just, you know, I used to do this visualizing thing of, of what I wanted to do the next day and that just kind of puts me to sleep because, you know, after a while you're tired of doing it, you're tired of going through those programs. Sure. Sure. Now there are many people that uh there were many people saying that Michelle Quan could fall a few times and still win the Olympics. Did that anger or perhaps motivate you as you headed into that free skate. Well, it was really a difficult time after um after the, the nationals because I really had no support. Um going into it. You know, I'd read all the magazines and every TV thing or, or magazine I'd pick up. It would always be like Tara could not win even if she did a quadruple. So that really at 15, I didn't understand this at all. So I'd go into the rink and I just was emotionally, really upset by it. So my mom, obviously the one to help me through it and we just kind of blocked everyone out and then that's kind of where I got my determination to, to show them that, you know, I do have a shot at this. Now, when you left the Olympic Ice, after your long program, you didn't appear to be thinking about your, your marks at all. You just seemed to be thrilled that you skated as well as you did. Were you thinking about placements at all? Not at all. Really? I can say that when I sk that program, I was so excited because I knew I couldn't have done any better. And that if I came in last, I would have acted the same way. I would have ran across that ice and screamed and yelled because that's how I felt. And I was, you know, just so excited that I pulled that off when I was so nervous when, you know, every day in practice, I just, you know, it could go 50 50 chance I could have fallen. I could have messed up. So to, to achieve that in Olympics for me was incredible. Were you aware that Lou Chen and Michelle had skated such strong programs. I was, I tried not to be, but it's, it's just hard not to remember hearing some marks, things like that. And, and maybe that put me at ease. Maybe I thought, you know what? I can't control what everyone's gonna do. Maybe if everyone messed up, I would have thought I had a chance, but I just went out there and I blocked everyone away and I remember just saying, I, I've done this millions and trillions of times in practice. There's no way I'm gonna, you know, have that 1% chance. I'm not gonna do it tonight. Now. Is it even more rewarding to win a gold in the competition where everyone turns in a great performance? That's the best part. Um I look back now and sometimes you probably think at the time like, oh, I hope, you know that I can go out there and skate great and that everyone doesn't go out and do quads or something. But looking back now, I'm so glad everyone skated good because that just proves that that was a tough competition, you know, to me to skate against great skaters like Lu Chen and Michelle Kwan and to have them skate awesome and perfect. And that just to me is even more rewarding. Do you remember the first time someone called you Olympic champion? Um Yes, I remember. Well, it was right after, you know, I won and I came out and they announced my name and it was just like I just couldn't get over it and I still can't, you know, to see that as my title is, is weird. It is weird. Now, Michelle Quan said that if she had to lose the Olympics to anyone, she was glad it was you, you two seem to have such a healthy, friendly rivalry where you really respected one another. Can you give us your thoughts on your rivalry with Michelle? Well, see, I think the media wanted it to be more of a, you know, rivalry, um, than it was, it was that we were both from the States. We were both good and we both wanted the same thing, but we really didn't get in each other's way by doing it. You know, one would win, one would want to win, you know, it was just a healthy, you know, competition and there was nothing, you know, we were both good kids, you know, coming from good families and it didn't affect us on the outside. Now, Chris Yama Gucci has said that she's felt a little bothered when she was labeled as an artistic skater because she was out there landing some really difficult jumps in the same vein. You had excellent presentation but was frequently labeled a jumper. How did that? Did that bother you? It did because I think, you know, when I was younger, maybe that was true. But as if you look at the tapes, you know, or if you look back and you see the improvement that came by the Olympics, I really don't see how there was a difference. I felt artistically very strong at that point. And now I don't find it so much of a problem because being on tour, um and with my hip surgery, I can't technically keep training like I used to. So, you know, now I have the balance of jumping, but also artistically having a blast. And, and to me, I love the artistic side of skating now. And I think that really shows and people have just seen that, you know, as I grow up, how long did it take you to decide to turn professional? Um, well, there was a lot of things that went on for me to make that decision just because, um I was living away from my family and then most importantly is I was hurt, you know, with my hip and I really didn't want to come out with that at the time. You know, now thinking back maybe I should have, but, you know, it's hard for a, you know, a 15 year old to come out and say, you know, my hips hurting and this is why and this is why and, but I really knew that I, I accomplished everything I wanted to. I was, didn't regret one thing, you know, I got the nationals, the worlds, the Olympics, the great performance that I wanted. And, you know, I saw my parents, I wanted them to be home and healthy. You know, I look at them now and I don't know, maybe, you know, it takes a toll on the family, maybe we wouldn't be healthy and happy right now if we didn't get back to a normal, you know, relationship where we all live together and, and took care of ourselves. Um, but, and then definitely the hip, it just, you know, I had surgery and it would, there, there's no way I could have stayed in. Did you, uh, take any advice from any fellow skaters during that time? Um, not, I didn't really see anybody at that time. I knew what I had to do. I knew, you know, before Olympics I was in and out of the hospital, you know, going through MRI S and, you know, I was in a lot of pain and to me that's why that Olympics was so important because I had my chance and I knew I had to do those jumps. Um, but it was also, I knew at the same time there's no way my body could last for another four years to do it again. Right. Right. Did the hoopla the media made over your decision bother you at all? It did. I mean, I'm just, I'm a little sensitive, I guess anyway, just because I feel like I'm trying to be a good person and I love skating and I love my fans and I don't want to disappoint anybody. But at the same token I wouldn't wanna, you know, stay in four years, have troubles, be in pain and then all of a sudden after that have to quit and not be able to, to tour to, you know, keep seeing those people every night. And I just couldn't give that up. I couldn't give up, you know, that, that feeling I get inside when I, I'm on the ice. Were there any skaters who took you under their wing, uh, in your first year as a professional? Um, I don't know, I didn't have like one skater that took me under their wing, but I, I felt like, you know, I've, I've always been young, I've always been thrown into, to a situation where everyone's older, but sometimes I just kind of, I'm there. So I think people just accept me and, you know, we, we all just try to, you know, it's a sport that so close. So it's, you know, we do it, you know, you know, everybody. Sure. Well, you see Alex Good told us that he learned more in one day skating on the same ice with Hamilton or, and browning than he did in months as an eligible skater. Did you have similar feelings? Joining stars on ice? Yeah, I mean, for me, I never realized as an amateur, what skating is about until you actually get on a tour and you realize what performing and entertaining and connecting with the audience and coming up with new ideas and not just going out and skating to a classical piece of music and jumping. It's, uh, it's incredible what you learn now. You've suffered a few injuries, uh, in the last few years. How are you feeling now? Um, you know, I'm trying to get on a, on a steady track where you can try to keep your body healthy. But it's hard, especially, you know, from what I've been through with my hip. So I'm still, you know, I've had the surgery, so hopefully I'll have a prolonged skating career now because I think it would have been over if I didn't have the surgery. So I feel totally grateful and I think that also gives more meaning to my skating. Now, when I get on the ice, it's I'm much more grateful to be healthy and to skate. Now, if you could give advice to the current group of eligible skaters, attempting all these really hard triple triples and some are trying quads and so forth. What would you say to them? I'd say go for it. Um, me, I, I, I always tried everything and, you know, you do what you can and you just listen to your body. I, I had problems with my hip just because of the way my, you know, my hip is formed in the joint and things like that. But, um, you know, you have to be careful, you have to listen to your body. But I, I'm all for young skaters, you know, trying to achieve their dreams. Age has no difference in our past interviews. Many young girls listed you as a role model, uh, but also male skitters like, uh Steve Hart and Peter. Uh they listed your hero. They listed you as their hero because of your strong work ethic. Where do you think you get that extra push from? Um, I don't know. I think it just comes from within and I'd have to say that's flattering for me to hear that skaters, you know, look up to me. That's, it's so strange because I still look up to so many people. I still, you know, feel like, you know, I'm just out there skating and to hear that people really, you know, find me as their hero is incredible to me, but it's, it's very flattering, but I would think that my work ethic, um just comes from within because I know what I want and once it's finished, then I'm content and I can move on. Who did you look up to while growing up? Um, well, I kind of looked up to everybody, anyone who went to the Olympics, I was totally obsessed with the Olympics. So, um I, I kind of looked up to like the k browning of the world and, um I loved, I did love Tuffy and Doug Doug led and when I went to stars and I, I just, I loved her spirit and her spunk. Um Anybody I loved Chris Bowman, I loved anyone who really showed their emotions. I, obviously, you always saw me smiling and doing whatever I felt at the time, but I think being genuine on the ice is, is really special. How does it feel to be receiving so much praise for your artistic side of your skating? Now, it actually feels great. It, it, it feels like I've come full circle, you know, from the jumper to the artistic and now I'm full circle now. I like it. What was it like working with Laura Nichol on your programs this year? I would have to say it was one of the most incredible experiences. I don't, you know, I, I never realized what I was missing out on because she's, I can't, I can't say enough about her. She can just pull anything out of you and she cares so much about her work. It makes it so important and it makes you feel like, gosh, I really am, you know, in my skating now, I actually feel like for me this year working with her, I found my own little niche and I know, you know what the ice feels like and she helped me do that. Now, you've created many memorable programs over the years. So we asked our, your fans uh to vote for their favorite, their six favorite terra programs like this. We were wondering if you could give us your thoughts on them. Uh Maybe how the program came about or what the programs mean to you personally. Uh The first one that came up was Dream Catcher. Yeah, that one for me was kind of a turning point because it, I think it showed artistically the first time I really did something different. Um, and it, it fit well on my body. It was kind of that haunting feeling where I could also portray a little bit of the acting that I have always loved. Um, and I, the music just to me was so serene and I love that one and let's move on to the second element. Oh, I like that one too. That one I liked because it really put every year. I like to come out with something different. I'm not one of those skaters that has the same thing. And I thought second element had more of like abrupt and um you like between the abstract movements, it really showed something a little different there. Color of roses. That is my favorite program. Um I think it always will be. I was contemplating thinking about just keeping it forever, but I think everyone would be a little disappointed by that. But um to me, artistically working with Laurie, I felt so at home with it. I felt like I finally every movement made a difference and the meaning of it to Saint Teresa who I pray to. And um it was so meaningful. Every word I had something to do with her and, and um I just, every time I went out there I felt her there, you know, watching over me and it was just to me my favorite program to skate. Little women, little woman. I love that. One too. I went green velvet dress that reminds me because I always didn't like real classical music at the time. So I always was into the movie themes and, and things like that and everyone was trying to push me away from that sort of thing. But I felt the music and when I felt it, I knew I could skate to it. The rainbow, the rainbow. That was a story. Uh, you know, each part I remember and I would think about it when I was skating to take my mind off the nerves. You know, the first part was the race to get to the point. Then there was the little dance and the skip and, and then, um, you know, the rain came and then you saw the rainbow and obviously the rainbow was my dream and, you know, it was to win the Olympics and then, you know, at the end it was to catch that rainbow. So I had my little story heading into the Olympic Year. How difficult is it to choose a program that will be well performed at the Olympics? Oh, it took forever. And for me though, it's kind of easy. It's like I hate everything and then something comes on and I know it's the right piece. Sure. But, but finding that it could take a very long time, I think they thought I'd never find it. American Tribute. Mm. That one was so much fun. Um I love that because I always like to come out and no matter what anybody thinks, do what I feel. And to me, it was so important to do that this past year with everything that went on. And I felt proud and I felt, you know, out there, a lot of emotions came out, I felt like I had a great opportunity to do the footwork that not many women do. And that gave me that chance to show that off. And also I felt like there's so many emotions of, you know, paying respect to the people that had died, you know, in, in the September 11th tragedy and almost being a little spiteful out there and standing up for your country and saying this is how I feel and I'm proud to feel it wonderful. Now, your footwork sequence, as you mentioned was spectacular. Uh Did you make a conscious effort to find a program where you could fit that type of work into it? I didn't, but the minute I heard the drums, it felt powerful. And I said, ok, I'm gonna do something. I don't care how hard it is. You know, my legs burned for days just finding how to do that footwork. And we figured it out and I love it. There were spirits of curt in there. Yeah, he helped, he helped me with it because I, he's, you know, incredible at that. And I wanted to show that I can do that too. Females can go out there and do that too. Wonderful. Did you have a chance to watch the ladies event in Salt Lake City? I did, I was not in Salt Lake City but I did watch it. What did you think of the competition? Well, it was interesting. I never thought it would go that way. You know, it was, I guess, disappointing to see so many, you know, people make mistakes because, you know, I know what it feels like to have that dream and to be there. And I can't imagine how hard it must be to go through that. But, you know, every person has their own trials and get through it and everything means something different to everybody. So hopefully they all enjoyed the experience and then to see Sarah win was pretty cool. Did you have your expectations for the event? I didn't, you know, because I, I know I was in that position. I know that it's a split second that can change everything and it's not like a world where you predict. Oh, she'll probably win because that's what it's very different. When you step on that ice. It's a different, it's a different sheet of ice. In what ways are you a better skater today than in 1998? I think artistically, I have come a long way. Um, just from within, I want to do something so different every year. I really feel my music and I think artistically that has helped. Um And I just, I, I think just learning about performing and entertaining is a big difference than in 98. Sure. We now have some random questions for you. We ask every skater. Uh some of these you mentioned before. Um your favorite program? Color of Roses? Can you expand upon why it's your favorite? Yeah. Color Rose is definitely my favorite. Just because for me, it was a dedication to Saint Teresa who I prayed to during the Olympics and has always been, you know, my inspiration and the words, every word meant something to me about her and I was soothing just to be on the ice. I felt every night she was there with me and it was, um, to me, just beautiful. What's your favorite program that someone else has done? Hm. Someone else? Let's see. I have a lot, I'd have to think. Let me think. I love, oh, you know, I loved Kurt's, uh, oh, no, not Maia. We did Maia again when he did the Spanish one. I thought that was really different for him. And I love the footwork. Obviously, he's incredible at that, but always comes up with some good ones. What's the biggest misconception about you? Biggest? I don't know. I mean, there's always been things like turning pro, like a lot of people didn't understand that, but I, I don't know what it would be. Um, I don't know. I'd have to think about that. One. Ok. Now, the last question we have for you is when someone looks back, let's say 100 years from now and asks, what did Tara Lepinski contribute to the sport of figure skating? What would you like the answer to be? I would like it to be that I genuinely had fun and showed it. Um, I think that's so important in a sport because it's not about always winning and it's not about always being first and being known and being famous. It's about what the people your fans do, you know what you can do for your fans. And hopefully, if I went out there and I had fun and I really showed how I was feeling no matter what it was, you know, maybe I made someone smile and if I can be remembered, you know, as, as a great skater and, and really genuinely showed my emotions out there, I think that would be why? All right, great. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to do this. Can I say something though to my fans? Because they, they really are the most important people to me out there and without them, you know, skating would be nothing because you go out and, and you perform every night and it's for them because if it was an empty stadium, it, it would not be as fun. So I just wanna say thank you to all my fans because truly they inspire me and they support me and when you're having those bad days, you know who you're skating for. Wonderful. Thank you very much.