What's Tara Lipinski up to nowadays?
Tara Lipinski's transformation from burgeoning junior prodigy to the top female figure skater in the world began more than two decades ago in an area not known for producing Winter Olympic legends.
While other 9-year-olds slept tightly in the comfort of their beds, Lipinski would leave her home in Sugar Land with parents Jack and Patricia for daily 3 a.m. workouts at the Galleria.
The next several years of Lipinski's life after that are well-documented. At 12, she became the youngest skater to capture a gold medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival.
By 14, she claimed unexpected victories at the 1997 U.S. and world figure skating championships to become the youngest skater to win both.
Finally, a year later, Lipinski outdueled Michelle Kwan to win gold in Nagano, Japan, and became the youngest individual gold medalist in Winter Olympic history.
Now 28, Lipinski stays involved with the sport she loves as a figure skating commentator for NBC/Universal Sports.
She approaches her new career with passion, vigor and an arduous work ethic similar to what she brought to the ice. Next month, she will serve as an analyst during the 2011 World Championships and could call the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, if she continues to do well.
"I've only done it for a year, but I look at people like Peggy Fleming and Dick Button," said Lipinski.
Unlike when she competed, figure skating commentators today call most events from remote studios far away from the live action. Lipinski called last year's World Championship in Turin from a Universal Sports studio in California. She did the same for several events during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating this past fall.
For a typical two-hour competition, Lipinski will spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for the broadcast. Her father noticed that she spent hundreds of hours researching skaters before the 2010 World Championships.
"I know my sport, but once you put on your headphones and your surface lights, it's much more difficult than you think," she said. "You want to make sure you speak at the right time. I also want to make sure I have something interesting to say."
Her acting experience has helped ease the transition. A year after the 1998 Winter Olympics, Lipinski graced television sets with her dirty-blonde locks and hazel eyes in a supporting role on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless.
Over the past decade, she followed it up with appearances on 7th Heaven, Still Standing, Malcolm in the Middle and the film Vanilla Sky.
"She almost has a photographic memory," said her father, who is the chief executive officer of CVR Energy, Inc., an independent petroleum refiner in Sugar Land. "She has always been comfortable in front of the media. She makes it feel like she's talking to you, not at you. It's really a skill."
Lipinski, who is not married, said she splits her time between the family residence in Sugar Land, her home in Kiawah Island, S.C., and Santa Monica, Calif., which helps accommodate her acting and broadcasting career.
She said serving the community has always been paramount. She is a spokeswoman for several organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Childhood Leukemia Foundation.
She also has made numerous charitable appearances with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Texas Children's Hospital and the Children's Circle of Care, lifting the spirits of needy children with her smile.
The daily travails a top figure skater must endure have helped Lipinski, who retired from skating in 2002, empathize with competitors while she sits in the broadcast studio.
"She's a very genuine person and she's very honest - what you see is what you get," said David Michaels, an executive producer at Universal Sports and director of NBC/Universal Sports' figure skating broadcasts. "As I've told commentators in every sport I've worked in, the true trick is to be yourself on the air. I think she's headed in that direction."
Between broadcasting, acting and other commitments, Lipinski has still found time to plan the Tara Lipinski Olympic Champ Camp, which will debut in June. Her father believes she can accomplish nearly anything she sets her mind to.
"I may be the CEO of a Fortune 1000 company, but I am definitely an underachiever when compared to her," he said.