Ice skating can make for a perfect holiday family outing or date, even for those who don't know a double axel from a death spiral, says Olympian Tara Lipinski, who won the figure skating gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, and now serves as a commentator for NBC Sports. "I go out incognito with my girlfriends, and we skate, and it's beautiful. Every once in a while, I'll throw in a trick." She shares some favorite rinks with Larry Bleiberg with USA TODAY.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park - Chicago
The Windy City park, a showplace for art, architecture and landscape design, attracts over 100,000 skaters a year to its free rink. Located at downtown's front door, the views alone make it worth a trip. "Skating there at night with all the lights, it's pretty special," Lipinski says.
The Boston Common Frog Pond
Lipinski remembers visiting this rink as a young skater with her mother. "We had hot chocolate and snacks and made a day of it," she says. The rink, a frozen reflecting pool, stands in the middle of historic Boston Common, and has a skating school. "You put on your skates and bundle up. It's one of those traditional outdoor rinks, which I like."
Blue Cross Riverrink - Philadelphia
This rink is home ice for Lipinski, who was born in Philadelphia and grew up in South Jersey. Located at Penn's Landing, it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. "It has a special place in my heart. I've taken my nieces there. It's a beautiful rink with views over the Delaware River and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge," Lipinski says. "At night they have a really cool light show."
Skating by the Sea, Hotel Del Coronado - San Diego
Skaters get the best of both worlds at this landmark hotel, where they can spin by the sea. Palm trees strung with lights surround the outdoor rink. "It's so gorgeous with the sunsets and the beach," Lipinski says. "You're not in freezing weather but you're getting a taste of winter."
The Rink at Rockefeller Center - New York
The nation's most iconic rink was originally a temporary attraction, but it was such a hit, it has become an annual Manhattan tradition. Its small size can only accommodate 150 skaters at a time, but Lipinski says it's a favorite. "The moment you step on the ice there you feel like you're part of the city," she says.
The Ice Rink at The Cosmopolitan - Las Vegas
It may be in the middle of the desert, but Las Vegas offers outdoor skating – and snow showers – during the holidays. The casino-hotel transforms an outdoor pool into a rink overlooking the Strip. Skaters can take in the lights along with s'mores and warm cocktails. Or reserve a private fire pit to put a Vegas twist on a holiday tradition. There are also holiday movies on a big screen and a disco soundtrack on Throwback Thursdays.
The Depot Ice Rink - Minneapolis
Skaters love this rink, located in a restored train shed with glass walls and vaulted ceilings. Because it's sheltered, it offers a break from chilly Twin Cities weather. "You're skating around with all these views of the city. It's stillness, but you see everything around you," Lipinski says.
Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink - Idaho
Lipinski was thrilled when she got a chance to skate this mountain resort rink, which regularly features performances by Olympians and champion skaters. "When I finally got the call, I was so excited. It's an amazing space. It has a huge ice surface." The rink hosts a minor league hockey team, offers lessons and is open for public skating.
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink - Washington
D.C. visitors can combine culture and skating at this rink next to the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall. The ice is surrounded by large scale sculptures by masters like Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein. "The coolest part about the outdoor rink is you have all that art around you," Lipinski says. The rink offers lessons, including special game-based classes for children aged three to six.
ICE at Santa Monica - California
Lipinski, who lives part-time in California, loves this rink near the Pacific. "It's a bit of a hidden gem. You're skating outside in 60 degree weather which is fantastic, but you're still getting the wintery icy holiday feel," she says. "It's a great date spot."
Tara and Johnny recently visited BuzzFeed and played the 'BFF game'. You can access the entire page with all the questions and GIF's here.
Pictures have also been added to the gallery.
Posted by Angie on Saturday, November 15, 2014
The first half of the Grand Prix figure skating season bounced from storyline to storyline — from lyrics to Russian and Japanese dominance to Olympic champions’ injuries.
NBC Sports figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir provided thoughts as the series shifts to the fourth of six events, the Rostelecom Cup this weekend, before the Grand Prix Final.
The Grand Prix season began with skepticism about a new rule allowing skaters to perform to music with vocal lyrics. Many adopted the change, including U.S. champion Gracie Gold, who was initially against it.
Weir said before the season he was “terrified” of what the programs might look like. Now that he’s seen it, the two-time Olympian said it’s “a little bit mind-blowing” listening to lyrics, especially in the instances it’s for an entire program.
“It can work for and against a skater,” Weir said. “So far, it’s been more against skaters than it is for them.”
The 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron‘s short program is set to Kenny Loggins‘ “Footloose,” a performance that placed him fifth at Skate Canada (he moved up to third after the free skate, in which he mostly performed without spoken words).
Four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott took second in the Skate America short program, accompanied by Sam Smith‘s “Lay Me Down.” He struggled in his lyric-less free skate, dropping to fifth overall.
Another trend surfaced as the Grand Prix series shifted to Skate Canada and Cup of China the last two weeks. Russian women and Japanese men have won five of the six individual competitions so far. In the only outlier, Japanese Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu finished second at Cup of China despite falling five times in his free skate with a head injury.
What was so impressive about three different Russian women sweeping the first three events was not only that it was unprecedented but also that Olympic champions Adelina Sotnikova and Yulia Lipnitskaya were not among the trio.
Sotnikova is out with an ankle ligament tear. Lipnitskaya finished second in her Grand Prix season debut at Cup of China, calling her free skate the worst of her life and pouring her stressed soul out in an interview.
“Yulia was thrown onto the cereal box, per se, for such a huge country that has such a long history in figure skating,” Weir said. “She didn’t look as prepared as she has in the past for competition [at Cup of China], but she’s very mentally tough, and she has ice in her veins in some ways.”
Next month’s Russian Championships will arguably be the deepest women’s competition in the world this season. Russia can send only three women to the World Championships in Shanghai in March.
“It’s been predicted for a few years now, the Russian ladies’ dominance,” Weir said. “We’re not just watching a renaissance in skating in Russia. We’re also watching these ladies jostle for position in their country.”
None of the three U.S. women’s Olympians have overly impressed Lipinski.
“I haven’t seen someone that’s jumped to the forefront,” Lipinski said. “At the same time, I’ve seen progress from the skaters.”
Like Polina Edmunds, the youngest U.S. Olympic skater since Lipinski. Edmunds fell on the first jump in her first-ever Grand Prix skate at Cup of China and finished seventh in the short program.
But Edmunds placed second in the free skate, landing seven triple jumps. Edmunds can build on that in two weeks at NHK Trophy in Japan, which is wide open with Sotnikova’s absence.
Gold was third at Skate America, messing up a simple spin, and has yet to win a senior international competition. Ashley Wagner took second at Skate Canada, the best result of any non-Russian this season. Still, Wagner could do better, Lipinski said.
“I haven’t seen [Wagner] really exploring, pushing her own technical merit up to a higher level yet,” she said.
Weir sees a similar complacency in Wagner’s countrymen.
“The American men, for the most part, are sitting a little bit in their comfort zone,” he said. “Yes, they’ve won medals in all three Grand Prixs so far, but they haven’t put up performances that are capable of competing with the likes of Yuzuru Hanyu, [Russian] Maksim Kovtun and [Spaniard] Javier Fernandez, who are kind of leaders of the sport at the moment.”
In particular, Jason Brown hasn’t progressed as much as Lipinski expected.
The ponytailed skater who thrilled with his “Riverdance” free skate last season looked shaky technically at Skate America. Brown finished second, nearly 35 points behind winner Tatsuki Machida, who is another of the elite class of men’s skaters.
Brown, who hasn’t added a quadruple jump to his competition programs yet, fell on a triple Axel and stepped out of a triple-triple combination in his free skate.
“It would have been great after the Olympic year to reset the tone and have the judges look at him as a serious threat every single time,” Lipinski said. “I don’t think that’s happened.”
Brown leads the U.S. singles entries at Rostelecom Cup this week. NBC will air coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.
“Certainly we have grand plans and big dreams,” Weir said. “But first things first, it’s figure skating.”
Two-time Olympian Johnny Weir used to collide “all the time” with other figure skaters in practice for junior competitions. The 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski remembered a competitor’s skate scraping her thigh during a warm-up session.
What happened at the Cup of China on Saturday shocked both NBC Sports figure skating analysts not so much because two skaters ran into each other, but because of the severity of the collision.
Olympic and World champion Yuzuru Hanyu warmed up for his free skate at the Grand Prix series event, a six-minute session where all skaters in the group (usually five or six) set to perform prepare on the ice at the same time.
Hanyu skated with his back to the majority of the ice when he turned and saw Chinese skater Han Yan in his path. Hanyu had little time to react, barely pulling his arms up to brace for impact (video here).
Hanyu and Han fell to the ice and grabbed their faces. Han managed to stand up and get off the ice. Hanyu lay on the ice for a minute, blood streaming down his chin and neck, before two people in medical outfits reached him.
“It’s very traumatic,” Weir said in a phone interview Tuesday. “My initial response was just of shock that this happened. And worrying about the boys.”
They both appeared to receive medical attention once they got off the ice. Han while laying on the floor next to the boards; Hanyu while sitting down farther away.
Neither withdrew from the competition, which caused scrutiny given heads collided. Hanyu was reportedly cleared by a doctor to compete, with his coach, two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, saying the skater showed no physical signs of a concussion.
Orser said Hanyu was determined to compete, though the coach cautioned the 19-year-old, “This is not the time to be a hero. You have to take care of yourself,” according to The Associated Press.
“If there was any head trauma or anything that he was at risk for in that area, he definitely shouldn’t have skated,” Lipinski said. “But if they gave him the go-ahead, I give him so much credit. I would consider myself back in the day a tough competitor, but I don’t think I could have done that. I would have been so frazzled and dealing with the physical symptoms.”
Han performed his free skate 45 minutes after the collision, falling on a quadruple jump attempt and erring on several other jumps. Hanyu performed shortly after that and fell five times, while wearing a head wrap. Hanyu needed to be held up by Orser when he got off the ice following his program.
“You’ve got to keep breathing, OK?” Orser told him. “Hang onto the boards.”
“I know that tomorrow he’s going to feel like he was hit by a car,” Orser said later, according to The Associated Press.
Hanyu, who needed jaw stitches and head staples, was wheeled through a Japanese airport the following day. On Monday, Japan’s figure skating federation said he would be out two to three weeks.
Han told Weir after the competition that he was feeling much better.
Collisions in figure skating are common in practice and warm-ups, with skaters twisting and jumping at high speeds in proximity.
Perhaps the most famous came in practice at the Lillehammer Olympics, when Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul and Germany’s Tanja Szewczenko hit each other while preparing for jumps before the women’s free skate. Baiul suffered a cut on her right shin that required three stitches. Szewczenko suffered a bruised right hip and abdomen, according to The New York Times.
There was immediate concern Baiul might not be able to compete. Both skaters managed to, with Baiul surpassing Nancy Kerrigan for gold. Szewczenko finished sixth.
Weir said collisions were frequent at his home rink as he grew into an international-caliber skater and shared ice time with less experienced athletes.
There is a right-of-way system when skaters are on the ice at the same time for practice, dictated by which skater’s music is playing or which skater is preparing for a bigger competition.
But neither of those deciders can be used in six-minute group warm-ups for international events such as Cup of China. The skaters are the fastest and strongest in the world, too.
“Everyone is so driven and so focused and in their own little zone,” Lipinski said. “[When you collide] you’re shaken up emotionally and taken out of your normal schedule and normal zone.
“For all that to go out the window so suddenly, to get that back on track is nearly impossible.”
Weir said group warm-ups are like “six bulls on the ice all fighting and jostling for space” and likened navigating the rink to driving through traffic.
“You misread somebody, or they misread you or you cut a turn too tight,” he said. “Skaters are skin and bones. You hit another person with skin and bones, and it’s all bones going into you.”
Weir said he would like to see the International Skating Union increase warm-up time from six minutes to 10 minutes, but not necessarily to split the six skaters into groups of three for five minutes each. Rather, he emphasized that six minutes is a short period for a skater to warm-up an arsenal of program elements.
A brief history of figure skating collisions:
In 1994, U.S. ice dancer Renee Roca broke a wrist after skating backward into another couple at U.S. Championships practice, one month before the Lillehammer Olympics. Roca and her partner, the defending U.S. champions, withdrew from the competition. They weren’t eligible for the Olympics because Roca’s partner hadn’t secured citizenship fast enough after defecting from the Soviet Union.
In 2011, U.S. ice dancers Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Gjulietti-Schmitt and Japan’s Cathy and Chris Reed crashed in warm-up at the NHK Trophy Grand Prix series event in Japan (video here). They did not withdraw. Earlier that morning, two other ice dance couples collided in a practice, with one couple withdrawing due to the female skater suffering a cut to her thigh.
In 2012, Russian pairs Yuko Kavaguti and Aleksander Smirnov and Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov collided in training at the World Championships but reportedly did not require medical attention.
In singles figure skating, collisions are less common but still prevalent. There was Baiul in 1994, but also these accidents:
Jill Trenary sliced her calf and severed an artery in a warm-up collision as a junior skater in 1985. She recovered from that to win the World Championship five years later.
In 1991, Japan’s Midori Ito was reportedly in tears after colliding with a French skater in a short program warm-up. She missed minutes of warm-up time and, in her short program, actually fell out of the rink entirely. Ito ultimately finished fourth. Kristi Yamaguchi won gold. A year later, Ito won Olympic silver behind Yamaguchi.
In 2010, American Adam Rippon and Canada’s Patrick Chan collided in a Skate Canada practice. Rippon had “a red welt the size of a quarter on his cheek,” according to The Associated Press. Chan went on to win the competition. Rippon was third.
Captures from The Meredith Viera Show have been added to the gallery.
Pictures have also been added to the gallery.
Posted by Angie on Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Two videos of Tara and Johnny on The Meredith Vieira Show are now online.
Posted by Angie on Thursday, October 30, 2014 - UPDATED on Monday, November 3, 2014
Tara and Johnny will be appearing on The Meredith Vieira Show next Tuesday, November 4. Check your local listings for times.
"Olympic figure skaters Johnny Weir & Tara Lipinski chat about their close relationship, their outrageous sense of style and find out what happens when band leader Everett Bradley hits the ice on the Rockefeller Center skating rink. Plus, John and Tara play a rousing game of “Frozen Frenzy,” to see how quickly Johnny can get Tara dressed in winter wear while sporting old school roller skates."
Posted by Angie on Thursday, October 23, 2014
If you liked tuning into Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, you’re in luck.
The duo, along with play-by-play commentator Terry Gannon, has been named NBC Sports Group’s lead figure skating broadcast team. Lipinski and Weir, who became breakout stars by delivering bold commentary in addition to showcasing eccentric outfits, will be in the booth for Skate America this weekend as well as for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic champion, and Weir, a three-time U.S. champion and two-time Olympian, became hits by being — in the words of Jim Bell, the executive producer of NBC Olympics — “authentic, entertaining, fresh and fun.”
The secret to their success is that they have been honest in their remarks in addition to being entertaining. Not only can they tell fans the difference between an Axel and a Lutz, but they also can opine on the latest trend in shoes. Weir showed off a black and white pair on the “Today” show this morning in fact.
“We want to be real about what the sport is,” Lipinski said. “If you call it as you see it, that’s what the audience likes.”
“I cherish the opportunity to bring figure skating to the people,” Weir added. “You have to be real, and you have to be authentic.”
You also never know what might come out of their mouths.
When asked about their own broadcasting role models, Lipinski said she looked up to Dick Button and Scott Hamilton, both of whom are Olympic champions and longtime figure skating commentators.
Weir then chimed in, saying, “For me, it’s 100 percent Kim Kardashian.”
Truth be told, as skaters, the two did take a lot of what was said about them by Button and Hamilton very seriously, and they recognize the responsibility they have to the skaters they are talking about now.
“For me,” Lipinski said, “with Dick Button, I will be forever scarred for my layback. There was not one that he ever said he was OK.”
“(The broadcasters) have such an impact on the sport,” Lipinski said. “It’s almost like they’re your parents. You want to make them proud.”
Weir recalled Button likening him to a “gazelle” on the air, adding that he would really have to “out-do the doozies” that have been said about him.
“I would constantly take their criticism to heart,” Weir said.
Hamilton, meanwhile, had been a part of NBC’s lead team since 2002 and Bell said there will be plenty of work for the 1984 Olympic gold medalist. Bell predicted Hamilton would be part of Olympic coverage on a variety of NBC programming.
“We’ll be able to keep Scott very busy,” Bell said.
NBC was so thrilled with the public’s reaction to Lipinski and Weir in Sochi that the two were asked to be part of the network’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby. Although Lipinski said they were kind of “fish out of water” at the prestigious horse race, they enjoyed working a non-skating event. The two hope to do other such events but did not reveal any future plans.
“Certainly we have grand plans and big dreams,” Weir said. “But first things first, it’s figure skating.”