Q&A with Tara Lipinski

The former figure skating champion on the best glute workout

When figure skating legend Tara Lipinskiwon the gold medal in ladies singles at the 1998 ­Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, it propelled her to nationwide notoriety and worldwide fame. In the almost two decades since her triumphant winning skate, Lipinski has remained a prominent name both on and off the ice; she was inducted in the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2006 (their youngest-ever member) and joined NBC’s primetime skating coverage during the Sochi Olympic Winter Games alongside fellow skater Johnny Weir. Ahead of the upcoming games in Pyeongchang, where Lipinski and Weir will provide commentary for another round of action on the ice, Lipinski talked to Furthermore about what it’s like to win gold, her competition diet and exercise routine, and which skater to have our eyes on come February.

During your gold medal skate, what was going through your head?

"It’s terrifying. You train all year long, go through all of the competitions leading up to it, and then all of the sudden you’re thrown into an Olympic games and it’s unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced. You have to really know how to prepare for something so big. It’s bigger than you, bigger than your sport, and the whole world is watching. Six minutes can determine your entire career. For me, I was very, very nervous; probably the most nervous I’ve been in my entire skating career. I took it one step at a time and tried to push through it. When they call your name and the music starts, you’re in charge of your destiny."

What was it like standing on the podium and hearing the US national anthem?

"It was a surreal moment when it happened. You spend so many years in a training center working towards this very specific goal, and then within seconds they say you’ve won and you’re a champion and it’s so overwhelming you don’t even understand what's happening. It took a while to sink in. Winning the medal was something I wanted so badly, but also being an Olympian stays with you. There are so many special things about competing in the games."

At the height of your competitive career, what was your diet like?

"I turned pro when I was 15 years old, so I didn’t really have a diet that I followed because I was training so hard and burning so many calories. I just kept eating for fuel. I was having lots of pasta, but really didn't have a strict nutrition plan. Though as I got older, I definitely became much more aware of what I was putting in my body."

Did you ever exercise outside of the rink when you were competing?

"Skating is the best cardio and glute workout you can ever ask for. It’s like doing squats for an hour straight. When I was training, I had a very regimented schedule where I came in and stretched, did off-ice training with my personal trainer, and did off-ice ballet. Most of the time I focused heavily on my training on the ice just so I wouldn't overdo it and risk injury."

Which athlete should we keep an eye on in the Olympic Winter Games next month?

"The name to really look out for is Nathan Chen in the men’s event. I remember watching him as a 10-year-old kid at nationals in 2010 and thinking he had so much talent. Over the years he continually progressed and within the past year and a half he sort of revolutionized men’s skating, not just in the US but in the world. He does quad jumps in a program, which is very difficult—and he does five of them. He really upped the bar technically."

When you're providing commentary, is it fun for you to watch other athletes competing?

"I sit up there and say ‘Thank goodness I don’t have to be out there dealing with that myself anymore.’ The other part is, even at the last nationals, there were so many times I was hopping out of my seat, gripping Johnny’s hand as these skaters were just vying for that chance to go to an Olympic games. I definitely feel what they're going through, just because I’ve been in their shoes. It’s a whirlwind."

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