On the Ice with...Tara Lapinski


By Matt Christopher

Illustrated by The #1 Sports Writer for Kids

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ebook (Digital original)


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Describes the life and skating career of the young woman who won a gold medal in figure skating at the 1998 Olympics.



All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Hachette Book Group

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New York, NY 10017

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First eBook Edition: December 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-09530-3

Chapter One:

An Olympic Moment

In the living room of the home of Pat and Jack Lipinski in Sewall, New Jersey, the television was on and tuned to the 1984 Olympic Games.

Two-year-old Tara, the Lipinskis' only child, idly played on the floor, while Pat, her mother, busied herself in the kitchen.

All of a sudden Pat Lipinski heard her daughter squeal with delight. Curious, she went into the living room to see what was making her daughter so happy.

On the television, three athletes stood on a podium, flowers in their arms and Olympic medals hanging from ribbons around their necks. In front of the television, wide-eyed little Tara stood on top of a plastic box, imitating the scene she saw on the television.

When she looked at her mother, she squealed again and said, "I want some flowers and a ribbon."

Pat smiled. Tara was an active, precocious child who had stood on her own when only six months old and had begun to walk by her first birthday. Nothing Tara did surprised her.

It was hard for her to refuse her daughter anything, and Pat happily responded to Tara's request. She gave her a small bunch of flowers and looped a strand of brightly colored ribbon around her neck.

On that day, Tara Lipinski began to dream about the Olympic Games.

And while neither the mother nor the daughter yet knew it, in only fourteen years, that scene would be repeated. When it was, it would not be the product of a child's imagination. It would be for real. An Olympic gold medal would hang around Tara's neck.

Pat, a secretary, and Jack, a young businessman who was attending law school, had married in 1980. Two years later, on June 10, 1982, Pat gave birth to a daughter. The Lipinskis decided to name her Tara after the name of the plantation in Pat's favorite movie, Gone with the Wind.

Jack had been an athlete when he was younger, playing soccer and lacrosse in school. Although many of his friends thought he would be disappointed with a daughter, Jack was pleased. Before the baby was born, he had worried that if he had a son, the child might feel pressured into playing sports, as he had sometimes felt while growing up. Jack thought it would be different for a girl. He was relieved when Tara was born. She could be anything she wanted to be, he thought.

Tara thrived on the attention she received as an only child. Her mother's cousin Phil and his wife, Edith, who Tara referred to as her aunt and uncle, lived nearby with their two young sons. Tara had lots of fun playing and trying to keep up with her two older cousins.

As a result, she seemed to mature faster than most children her age. Although she was small, she mastered physical skills, such as climbing out of her crib and riding a bike, earlier than other kids. She had so much energy that her mother was constantly on the lookout for activities to keep her daughter occupied.

When Tara was three, her mother saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a nearby roller-skating rink. The rink was giving away Care Bears, popular stuffed animals.

Pat knew that Tara loved stuffed animals and thought a morning of roller-skating might tire her daughter out for the day. She loaded Tara into the car and drove over to the rink.

When Pat first tried to put the rented skates on Tara's tiny feet, Tara screamed and cried. She didn't like the feel or look of the skates. She wanted to go home.

But Pat pointed to the other children, who were wheeling around the rink and having fun. Several children were about Tara's age, and Pat told her daughter that if she wanted to play with them, she would have to wear the skates.

Tara looked around and stopped crying. Her mother took her hand and guided her carefully onto the surface of the rink.

At first, Tara couldn't stay upright. Every time she tried to move, her feet slid out from under her and she tumbled down. But she didn't cry. She just waited for her mother to lift her up. Then she would try to skate again.

Each time she did, Tara got a little better. Soon she was able to get back on her feet by herself, and after an hour or so, she rarely fell. She learned to take several short, quick running steps to build up momentum, then roll across the rink on her own, giggling and bumping into the other children.

When it was time to go, Pat took off Tara's skates and asked the rink attendant for Tara's Care Bear. But the attendant explained that Pat had misunderstood the ad. He said that in order to receive the stuffed animal, she would have to sign her daughter up for a minimum of ten lessons.

Pat saw the look of disappointment on Tara's face. Skating was fun, but she really wanted a Care Bear.

Pat didn't want Tara to get upset. Besides, she thought, Tara had enjoyed skating. Maybe skating lessons would provide a good outlet for her energy.

"Do you want to come here every week?" she asked.

"YES!" cried Tara. So her mother signed Tara up for ten weekly lessons, and Tara got her Care Bear. On the way home, Tara was all smiles as she held tight to her stuffed animal and jabbered excitedly about skating.

The Olympics were still far in the future, but Tara was on her way.

Chapter Two:

Rolling On

Pat half-expected her daughter to tire of skating. She really didn't even care if Tara took all ten lessons. She knew that it was hard for a three-year-old to stay focused on something like skating lessons.

But Tara surprised her. She enjoyed being at the rink, and she loved taking lessons with the other children. The instructors made the lessons fun. They played music and made up skating games. While the kids played, their skating skills slowly improved. Every time Tara and her mother returned home after skating, she could hardly wait to tell her father all about it.

Pat always sat in the stands with the other parents as their kids wheeled around the rink. Although she usually brought a book to read, more often than not she ended up just watching her daughter roller skate and have fun. As far as she could tell, Tara was just another toddler trying not to fall.

At the end of the ten lessons, the children got to put on a Christmas show. They dressed up as reindeer and skated to Christmas carols.

Tara loved performing in front of the crowd. For weeks, it was all she could talk about.

The mother of one of Tara's skating friends learned that another roller rink had a special "Tiny Tot" skating program, specifically designed for younger children. She asked Pat if she'd like to sign their kids up for the program together. Pat quickly agreed.

After Tara's third group session at the new rink, one of the instructors approached Pat as she and Tara were preparing to leave.

Although Pat hadn't noticed, the instructor had quickly realized that Tara was something special. She was better coordinated than many of the other children and seemed to learn faster. The instructor told Pat that Tara had potential as a skater and suggested that in addition to her group lesson, Tara should take a private lesson once a week.

Pat was surprised, but she already knew how much Tara loved to skate. She thought about it for a moment, then asked Tara if she wanted to skate more each week.

"Yes!" was Tara's enthusiastic reply.

The more Tara skated, the more she loved it. Within a few weeks, she began taking two private lessons a week. A few months later, she began taking three a week and then four. Within a year, Tara was taking private lessons nearly every day of the week.

Although the extra instruction took a lot of time and money, Pat and Jack Lipinski didn't mind. They wanted their daughter to be happy and assumed that at some point Tara would tire of going to the rink every day.

Taking private lessons allowed Tara to improve quickly. She soon left other skaters her age far behind. In order to keep Tara motivated, her instructors, Charlie Kirchner and Kathy DeFelice, exposed her to a wide variety of skating styles. Although she was only four years old, they knew it would only be a matter of time before Tara started competing as a solo skater. Part of singles competition included school figures, precise patterns each skater must trace on the rink. Young children often become bored with the tedious repetition of school figures. But Tara never got bored with skating. She loved being on skates and feeling in control of her movements.

They also had Tara practice pairs skating. In pairs, two skaters skate together to music, matching each other's movements. She even tried speed skating, rolling around the rink as quickly as she could. As Tara late wrote in her autobiography, Triumph on Ice, "I liked everything."

The only thing that stopped Tara from skating was roller hockey. Tara and her mother had to leave the rink each evening when teams of older children began arriving to play roller hockey, a game almost identical to ice hockey.

Tara didn't realize that few girls played roller hockey, particularly five year olds. All she knew was that if she played roller hockey, she'd be able to spend even more time at the rink.

First she bugged Charlie Kirchner, who ran the roller hockey program, for her own roller hockey stick, which players use to hit the roller hockey ball, similar to a hockey puck. He cut a regular stick down to Tara's size. Then Tara told her mother that she wanted to play roller hockey, too, so they asked Charlie Kirchner if she could play. He knew that Tara was already one of the best skaters at the rink, so he agreed.


On Sale
Dec 19, 2009
Page Count
144 pages

Matt Christopher

About the Author

Matt Christopher is the best-selling name behind more than 100 sports-themed books for young readers.

Learn more about this author