You always remember your first Olympics…
At least, I’m sure every Olympian remembers their first Olympics. I on the other hand, remember watching my first Olympics. At least I remember watching my first Olympics in which I was a real-live human, with a quality, dependable memory. I do have some vague memories of the fascination I had with Dominique Moceanu and the rest of her 1996 gymnastics team and even vaguer memories of discussing Nancy Kerrigan with my pals as a wee first grader in 1994, but for all intents and purposes, the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan were my first, real Olympics-viewing experience.
The year was 1998 and I was a very mature 10 year-old with an unusual obsession with Tara Lipinski. She was young, adorable and she totally looked like my babysitter Ricki. As a lil ice skater herself, my best friend Ali loved her too, so that was an added bonus. I remember watching the long program in my family’s “little room,” a teeny tiny room with just the barest of furniture: a pull-out couch and an incredibly old television. It was in this room that many a memorable moment occurred, most notably when my guinea pig Nibbles peed on the aforementioned Ali as she sat helpless in her PJs after a rousing sleepover. But that’s another story for another time.
So there I am, sitting on the couch in the little room, with a remote in one hand and an apple juice in the other (while I can’t confirm this, as a lover of that sweet, sweet juice, I assume it was apple). Lipinski was heading into her long routine slightly behind her super talented teammate Michelle Kwan, already a beloved American athlete who had skated herself into first place a few nights before. As Wikipedia tells me, both were considered favorites to medal at the games, which made this match up the one to watch.
Out skated Tara in her pretty blue costume, sweet little bangs and total Ricki-like face. She landed jump after jump after jump, and as Wikipedia tells me, she completed, “seven triples, including a historic triple loop/triple loop combination and, at the very end of her long program, a triple toe/half loop/triple salchow sequence.” If my memory serves me correctly, she landed that final sequence with a huge smile on her face, which perfectly matched mine as I sat on the couch, sipping my apple juice and cheering on my American idol.
Now as the world waited for the scores that would cement her gold-medal status, I dialed Ali’s number on my rotary phone (not a rotary phone) and we watched the announcement together. I don’t know why we were so happy, but we..were..thrilled. I guess it was because Tara Lipinski was just a few years older than us and made it seem like we could do anything. The adrenaline was palpable during her routine and the perfection of her skills and technique secured her place as one of the best skaters in US Olympic history.
Now, nearly 15 years later, Ali and I still talk about that incredible triple salchow sequence and the night when Tara Lipinski won gold. We also still talk about that time when Nibbles peed on her in my little room, but like I said…that’s another story for another time.
So you’ve heard my first brush with Olympic Gold — now it’s time to share yours in the comments below! And while you’re at it, take a second to voice your choice in today’s poll: Which 2012 US Olympian is your favorite?
Ryan Lochte (swimming)
Michael Phelps (swimming)
Kerry Walsh/Misty May Trainer (Beach Volleyball)
Gabby Douglas (Gymnastics)