The golden skate
Lipinski shines in breathtaking day at the Olympics
Posted: Fri February 20, 1998 at 11:09 AM ET
Lipinski rose up to the challenge in the long program and became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in figure skating
NAGANO, Japan (CNN/SI) -- American teen Tara Lipinski, shrieking with delight after a near-flawless long program, became the youngest Olympic figure skating champion in history Friday, beating teammate Michelle Kwan in a breathtaking duel for the gold.
The difference between gold and silver in this stirring skate-off was one tiny, almost undetectable misstep from Kwan, the leader and favorite entering Friday's long program. That was enough for Lipinski, 15, who skipped off the ice after her skate and ju
mped up and down as the marks that gave her the gold medal were displayed.
"It felt so great, I can't even explain it," Lipinski said. "Knowing against all odds, under all that pressure, you did it. I will always remember it."
American Tara Lipinski fought off tremendous pressure and overcame favorite Michelle Kwan -- who skated a wonderful but not-quite-perfect performance -- to win the figure skating gold medal.|
The Czech Republic hockey team dumped the strong Canadians in a scintillating semifinal to move into the gold medal game against Russia.
American sports fans. Not only did they get ripped off by a sub-par performance from their supposedly superstar hockey team, they were embarrassed when the no-class losers trashed their Japanese hotel rooms on their way back to their American mansions.
"Several players got out of hand, they got rowdy and they embarrassed the sport. They showed disrespect to our hosts, they showed disrespect to Japan and to the Nagano Olympic Committee." -- USA Hockey executive director David Ogrean on reports that membe
rs of the United States hockey team trashed hotel rooms following their quarterfinal loss to the Czech Republic.
The figure skating was the capper to a phenomenal day at the Olympic Winter Games that included a stirring shootout between the Czechs and Canadians in a hockey semifinal game. The Czechs, who ousted the Americans from the Olympics earlier, beat favored C
anada 2-1 and will advance to the gold medal game against Russia.
Still, the figure skating showdown between the two Americans dwarfed all other Olympic events on this day.
After Kwan skated first in the long program, it was clear that Lipinksi would have to be nearly perfect to take the gold. The 17-year-old Kwan, who won the national championship last month with 15 perfect scores, was close to perfection here skating to "L
yra Angelica." She received all 5.9s for artistry.
But a shaky landing on a triple flip may have been her undoing, leading to 5.7s and 5.8s in her technical merit scoring.
"I had a few problems in my jumps but I fought through it," Kwan said. "By the time I finished, I thought, 'Oh my God, this can't be happening.' I had to pinch myself and almost did.
"I thought it was good enough. But after I skated, I knew it was out of my control."
Kwan's small mistake was enough for Lipinski, who nailed jump after jump -- seven triples, five in combination, including her trademark triple loop-triple loop and a wonderful triple toe loop-half loop-triple salchow.
Lipinski, who became the youngest world champion ever in 1997, earned five 5.9s for artistry had six 5.9s for technical merit. Six judges put Lipinski first, while three favored Kwan, including the U.S. judge.
"There is nothing that could be better for me," Lipinski said. "Anything that goes on in the future, I will be so content with what I have done."
It was the first 1-2 American finish since Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss in 1956. Lipinski is the sixth American to win the crown, two months younger than Sonja Henie was when she won in 1928.
Lu Chen of China won the bronze for the second Olympics in a row.
"I knew this competition was not a piece of cake," a teary Kwan said afterward. "I came out of the rink feeling like I had done my best. There is nothing more I could have done. I truly know that.
"It might not be the color medal I want, but I will take it."
In other Olympic news Friday:
- Domink Hasek was unbeatable in goal for the Czechs.
Canada scored with 63 seconds remaining to tie the match 1-1 and
force the extra period. But, after another scoreless 10 minutes, Robert Reichel
beat Patrick Roy on the first Czech attempt in the penalty shootout
and Hasek did the rest.
The 14-year veteran stopped all five shots he faced in the shootout, making him the biggest hero of the hockey tournament so far.
Dominik Hasek (left) ended Canada's gold-medal hopes after shutting them out in the shootout capped off with this stop on Brendan Shanahan
"Nobody can beat the Dominator. He's the man," Czech left wing Martin Rucinsky said of Hasek. "In big games like this, he's outstanding."
- Italian Deborah Compagnoni won gold in the giant slalom by a huge margin. She defended the title she won in Lillehammer four years ago. Combined with her 1992 Super G title from 1992, it is a record triple.
"What probably distinguishes me is the fact that I try to keep a certain natural element when I'm facing these courses," she said.. "What I'm saying is it has to be a pleasure to ski, and I find great pleasure in skiing."
- Speed skater Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann equaled the Olympic record for individual medals Friday, winning the silver in the 5,000 meters. Her German teammate Claudia Pechstein won the gold, but Niemann-Stirnemann tied the Winter Games record of eight ind
ividual medals held by East German speed skater Karin Enke-Kania and Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie.
Daehlie has 11 medals in all, but three of them have come in relays.
- Norway won the Nordic combined team competition, much to the disappointment of thousands of Japanese fans.
Claudia Pechstein nudged out Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann in the 5,000 meters to boost Germany's gold-medal total to 10
Japan's specialty used to be the Nordic combined, but Norway put an end to that when Bjarte Engen Vik won his second gold of the Nagano Games to lead his relay squad. Japan finished a disappointing fifth.
- Russian cross-country star Larissa Lazutina collected her fifth medal at the Nagano Games by winning bronze in the 30-kilometer cross-country race. She already had three golds and one silver from two previous Olympics. Her teammate Yulia Tchepalova wo
n the race, completing a first-ever Russian sweep of the five Olympic women's cross-country events.
- The speed skating double boosted Germany's position on
top of the medal standings to 27 overall, including 10 gold,
already assuring Germany's best finish in Winter Games history.
Norway was in second place with 21 medals overall, including eight gold. Russia is third with 16 medals, including nine gold.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.