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Tara Lipinski Wins Gold-February 20, 1998

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Tara Lipinski won the gold medal in Women’s Figure Skating at the Nagano Olympics, on February 20, 1998. At the age of 15, she was the youngest Olympic gold medalist in the history of the sport.

Tara Lipinski, a 15-year-old girl wearing ice skates, blue sequins and an infectious smile, became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in figure skating history tonight, using a joyful performance to score an upset of fellow U.S. skater Michelle Kwan. Read more, Washington Post.

“I was obviously beyond elated,” she said, looking at a photo of herself at 15 years old reacting to winning figure skating gold. “I think I just felt a lot of relief. Because there was just so much pressure leading up to this — years of training. Then the months right before the Games were very stressful and that week in the competition I was so nervous. I don’t know what I was doing. Obviously I was losing my mind screaming.” Read more NBC.com

Heading into the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the buzz surrounding Tara Lipinski was incredible. She was fresh off of a World Championship win, becoming the youngest competitor in history win the title. The world wanted to know if she could duplicate those results to become the youngest Olympic Gold Medalist in Winter Games’ history. However, there was a lot of fierce competition in her way. Not only was Michelle Kwan, a fellow American, a very fierce competitor, but China’s Chen Lu was in the ’98 games, more determined than ever to win gold after losing out to Kerrigan and Baiul in the ’94 Lillehammer Games. Read more, Olympics30.com

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Katarina Witt Wins First Gold Medal – February 18, 1984

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Katarina Witt won the first of her two Olympic gold medals at the Winter games in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia) on February 18, 1984.
Skating for East Germany, Witt was 18 years old. She was competing against Americans Elaine Zayak and Rosalyn Sumners. Zayak won the World Championship in 1982 and Sumners was champion in 1983.

At Sarajevo, Sumner won the compulsories which counted for 30 percent of the total score. Claudia Leistner of West Germany was second in the compulsories and Witt finished third. Zayak placed a distant 13th.

In the next phase, Witt won the short program (They counted for the 20 percent of the total and the long program counted for fifty percent.) Sumner fell to second place overall after placing fifth in the short program, but the gold medal was still within her reach. If either of two judges would have given Sumner another tenth of point for her long program performance, she would won the competition.

In 1988 Witt won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, becoming only the second woman to win back-to-back gold medals in figure skating. Sonja Henie was the first, winning three consecutive gold medals from 1920-1936. Witt attempted a comeback in 1994 and qualified for a spot on the unified German team. At the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway she placed seventh.

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Sonja Henie Wins 3rd Consecutive Gold Medal – February 15, 1936

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Sonja Henie won the gold medal in Women’s Figure Skating on February 15, 1936, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. She is the only woman to ever win three consecutive Olympic skating titles.

At the age of 11 she represented Norway at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. That year she came in last among a field of eight.

Henie won her first of 10 consecutive World Championships in 1927 and the following hear she won her first Olympic gold medal in St. Moritz, Switzerland. She won again at Lake Placid, New York in 1932.

Skating in Berlin, ahead of the 1936 Winter Olympics, Sonja was told that Hitler and his entourage had been seated. She skated into the rink at full speed, did her sharp little skid stop in front of the Führer, raised her arm and declared, “Heil Hitler.” The crowd went mad. The next day, her compatriots in Scandinavia were distraught, the newspapers asking, “Is Sonja a Nazi?” Her impulsive act was a stain on her white velvet. At the Olympics, a chastened Sonja did not salute, though word that she and her parents had lunched with Hitler at his retreat in the mountains didn’t help matters. According to her brother’s writings, Sonja’s response to the uproar was “I don’t even know what a Nazi is.” Read more VanityFair.com

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Peggy Fleming Skates to Gold – February 10, 1968

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Peggy Fleming won the gold medal in Women’s Figure Skating on February 10, 1968. She was the only American to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.

The New York Times described Fleming’s win as “a victory of the ballet over the Ice Follies approach to figure skating.”

Women’s figure skating became an Olympic sport in 1908, but no American woman was able to take a gold medal in the event until Tenley Albright did it at Cortina, Italy in 1956. The U.S. followed up its win in Cortina when Carol Heiss, who had been the silver medalist in 1956, stepped up and took the gold medal at Squaw Valley, California, in 1960.

Disaster struck a year later when all 18 members of the U.S. team were killed in a plane crash in Belgium. They were on their way to the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Still in the throes of its rebuilding phase, Peggy Fleming at the age of 15, led the U.S. women skaters by placing 6th at the 1964 Winter Olympics at Insbruck, Austria.

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