Last night I was watching some of Michelle Kwan's figure skating performances on YouTube and weeping. I wept for the beauty of her performances, and for the deferred dream of Olympic gold, but also I wept because I realized that with all that Michelle Kwan has accomplished in her athletic career as well as life in general, she is an entirely worthy hero and role model. However, as an admirer, I haven't always been worthy of her because, in my devotion to her, I made myself an enemy of Tara Lipinski. I believe that the greatest sin a person can commit is to sow hatred in the name of love; I am guilty of that sin, and I would like to try to atone for it now.
I've been doing a lot of soul-searching on the subject, and part of me would really like to bare my soul entirely, but I'm rather sore today and sitting up to type exacerbates that situation, so at this time I want to boil it all down to the essentials.
Essentially, I always disliked Tara Lipinski because (1) she got a lot of media attention, and I always felt like she was taking attention away from Michelle Kwan, specifically by (2) winning the Olympics in Nagano. As I look back on it now, I realize that if I was angry about all the media attention she got, I really ought to have been angry at the media, not at Lipinski. And if I was angry about the results of the Olympic figure skating competition in 1998, I really should have blamed the judges, not Lipinski. It's not like she asked for the attention (although I don't think she minded it much either); all she ever did was skate as best she could, and it really isn't fair to hold that against her. As for the media, so often they focus so much attention on athletes when they do wrong (Tonya Harding, for example), and so they really shouldn't be faulted for paying attention to someone who's performing well and--more importantly--behaving well.
As I think about it now, it's kind of sad that Lipinski retired from competition when she did (it doesn't make ME sad, but it's sad in sort of an abstract, cosmic sense). If you've achieved all your dreams at the age of 15, then what do you have to look forward to for the rest of your life? On the other hand, her satisfaction with one National, World, and Olympic title apiece shows a sort of admirable humility. If Evgeni Plushenko, for example, had been satisfied with one Olympic gold medal, the Vancouver Olympics would have been much more pleasant.
So I apologize to Tara Lipinski, and I apologize to Michelle Kwan; she has always represented us so well as an athlete and a diplomat, but as her fan I have not always represented her well.