IF YOU LIVED IN HOUSTON in the early nineties, maybe you got the chance to see hera frail-looking little girl with tiny legs and a wisp of a body, her brown hair pulled back in a bun, her lips pressed together in concentration. Every morning before school and afterward in the afternoon, she would take to the ice rink at the Houston Galleria, skating the same routine over and over, focusing on the movement of her arms, the smoothness of her turns, and the straightness of her legs. If you stood there and kept watching, you might see her leap. She would lift effortlessly off the ice and then land with hardly a sound, and within seconds she would be back in the air again.
She seemed talented, but who knew where that talent would take her? On rinks in malls all across America, hundreds of other little girls skated five hours a day. They, too, dreamed of stardom. They, too, wanted to win an Olympic medal. But there was only one Tara Lipinski, and you knew after seeing her jump that she alone was destined for greatness.
What no one knew was how soon it would come. In March, at age fourteen, Lipinski became the youngest world champion figure skater of all time, displaying the grace and maturity of someone much older as she landed seven triple jumps in the final round of the competition in Lausanne, Switzerland. Considering that she placed fifteenth the year before, many of the sport’s insiders were wondering what she did to