Ever wanted to go back to college for the day? Don’t miss: 3 top lecturers in Baltimore

NBC analyst Tara Lipinski on Olympics: 'I still feel like I did at 15'

She was eating spaghetti in her parents’ hotel room when she said she needed to speak to her mother. As the door shut behind her dad, the 15-year-old began to sob.

“I think I'm scared,” she said, and her mom — whose own fear was she wouldn’t say the right thing — took a deep breath and told her it was OK to be feel that way, but she was up to the task at hand and needed to believe that.

No one watching Tara Lipinski that night 20 years ago in Nagano, Japan, would have guessed she was in any way unnerved from the aggressive performance with which overtook the favorite, U.S. teammate Michelle Kwan, for Olympic gold in women’s figure skating.

That was Lipinski’s only Winter Games as a competitor, but she’s back for her second as an NBC commentator, part of an engaging broadcast team with two-time Olympian Johnny Weir and Terry Gannon, and still regards the Olympics with much of the awe she had as a teen.

“The feeling never changes,” Lipinski said on a conference call this week from Pyeongchang, South Korea. “I still feel like I did at 15 when I see the Olympic rings or I hear the music, or I walk into an arena, or I think of what those athletes are going to feel like when they walk into opening ceremony.

“I think that’s the most magical part about the Games. … It’s so much more than just your sport, your personal journey and goal. It’s coming together, and you really do feel that.”

For his part, Weir calls the Olympics “the most amazing, magical event.”

Figure skating is a famously subjective sport. Filmgoers have been reminded as much through the film “I, Tonya,” which creates its own reality regarding the 1994 Olympics in many respects but weaves its creative writing from at least a germ of truth on that point.

Lipinski noted there have been changes to the judging system since the days of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. But she acknowledged they haven’t eliminated all biases, whether political, personal, aesthetic or whatever.

“Overall it has improved greatly, but, again, at the end of the day sometimes … there’s still personal preference” among some judges,” she said.

“The great thing there is that the American audience has Tara and I to call the judges out if it’s the wrong call,” Weir said.

Which suggests — to the doubtless relief of viewers — that he and Lipinski aren’t so in awe of the Olympics as to be dumbstruck.

philrosenthal@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @phil_rosenthal

'She's a machine:' Figure skater Bradie Tennell suddenly a gold medal contender »

Figure skater Adam Rippon wants spat with Mike Pence to take backseat to the Games »

2018 Winter Olympics: TV schedule and highlights »

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
54°